A dominant performance from the league title contenders Bath Ladies, including five individual tries from scintillating winger Hannah Meek, kept Abbey Women in their mid-table position despite some promising periods of play from the home side.
Three quick tries from the visitors in the opening quarter stunned Abbey, who were caught off-guard by Bath’s electric back three combination of Meek, Edmonds and Peters. Unable to get their hands on any ball from the breakdown, Abbey were living off Bath’s scraps until dogged pressure turned the tide in the home side’s favour. A series of penalties allowed kickers Alice Denton-Rice and Lou Pullan to work their team up the pitch, and pressure on Bath’s own kickers allowed Abbey to continue to make ground.
Although she had been thwarted on two strong charges for the line, Denton-Rice was finally rewarded with her team’s first try towards the end of the first half. A secure lineout from the pack allowed fly-half Annette Bevan to release Grane on a deep line, who moved the ball wide to Pullan and opposite winger Caroline Shephard. Moments later, Denton-Rice crossed from short range, surging for the line with a multitude of Bath players hanging off her.
Having kept the visitors to 19 points since the three early tries, Abbey finished the half feeling positive. Hooker Claire Stevens was enjoying a fine day in the scrum, turning some against the head and her propping partner Hannah Gale was leading the defence. The Abbey back line had tested the Bath defence with runs from centre Mia McCreesh and Ellie Denton-Rice had delivered well from set piece to keep her team on the front foot.
The second half started in a similar vein to the first, with Bath scoring almost instantly through Meek, who tiptoed her way around the Abbey defence, grabbing a second not too long after, following a fumble from Bevan on the ground.
Abbey knew they had more to offer than the score line showed; the impact of Kelsea Montgomery and Natalie Bow off the bench lifted the team’s spirits with Montgomery’s surging runs and Bow’s intuitive pressure from kicks. It was Alex Wilkinson, having swapped into the 9 shirt from Ellie Denton-Rice, who read a stray Bath pass between their centres to perfection; the resulting intercept saw her run in half the length of the pitch to grab her side’s second.
Buoyed by this, Abbey responded well again and pressurised the restart, forcing yet again another Bath fumble. An assured scrum saw Wilkinson swing the play blind to Bevan, who darted through a gap, bringing the play to Bath’s 22. Clean rucks and quick hands through the team found Montgomery, who did exceptionally well to beat three defenders on the way to the line.
It would have been deserving of Abbey to claim a try bonus point with a fourth effort, yet another few tries in the closing minutes from Bath to cement their 50 away points, as well as some impatience from Abbey to cross the line saw the score remain at 17-50.
Abbey will learn from this assured performance from the league title contenders, and will be looking to take maximum points from their fixture with Supermarine next week in order to continue to fulfill their aim of a top half of the table finish this season.