In a must-win game for both sides, Abbey Women secured a clinical away victory over Buckingham Swans with an impressive six-try performance, which lifted them into seventh place in Championship South 1.
A hat-trick from Alice Denton-Rice playing out of position at number eight, as well as a maiden try this season for fullback Lou Pullan finished off well-worked team patterns of play, which mostly stemmed from Abbey’s dominant scrummaging performance.
Abbey started the brighter team as Buckingham Swans struggled to maintain their discipline early on, and a series of quick penalties found the visitors camped in the opposition 22. Abbey started to assert their scrum dominance early on, with prop Hannah Gale enjoying the upper hand over her previous club. Early chances for wingers Olivia Grane and Caroline Shephard didn’t come to fruition, but it was Alice Denton-Rice who stole the first try of the afternoon. Moments later, Abbey found themselves in a similar position, and outside centre Hayley Matthews crossed the whitewash after finishing off a backs move.
Buckingham responded well, with strong carries in particular from their back-rowers Katie Clark and Ellie-Jade Bradford. Fullback Kelly Gell kicked well, using the slope of the pitch to her advantage and after a sloppy restart, Abbey found themselves camped on their try line. Despite some heroic tackling from Abbey captain Annabel Hawkins and openside flanker Charlotte Faux, Buckingham’s nippy outside centre Becca Herring worked the ball wide for her wingers to score twice in quick succession.
With the halftime score level at 10-10, Abbey were then disappointed to concede to Buckingham early on. Miscommunication at the lineout saw Buckingham steal the ball and cross after a series of forward phases to take the lead 15-10.
From the restart, Wall and Faux applied good pressure from the kick-off, turning over the ball back to Abbey’s possession. Fly-half Annette Bevan nudged a kick into touch just inside the corner flag and the resulting pressure on Buckingham’s lineout saw Abbey turn possession over and fullback Lou Pullan crossed for her maiden try this season.
The last quarter of the game saw Abbey come into their own. Expertly guided by scrum half Ellie-Denton Rice, the dominant pack turned scrums against the head and made their way up the pitch with a series of carries. Hawkins, Wall and Potter ran well off Bevan at fly-half, and although Potter was unlucky to not cross the line, two phases later Faux crossed, securing the bonus-point for the visitors.
Abbey were not content to defend their lead and with the pack running rampant at the scrum, afforded the backs an excellent platform to play off. Debutant Fleur Walker combined well with centre Mia McCreesh, who had been running hard lines all game, and continued kicks from Ellie Denton-Rice and Bevan pinned Buckingham back in their own half. In quick succession, Alice Denton-Rice completed her hattrick with two further tries and the emphatic win was sealed.
This was an important win for Abbey, now sitting seventh in the Championship South 1 table, and with two fixtures remaining before the Christmas break, home to Richmond and away to Hove, the squad will be looking to solidify their position mid-table going into the second half of the season.
Tries: Alice Denton-Rice (3), Hayley Matthews, Lou Pullan, Charlotte Faux
Conversions: Alice Denton-Rice (1)