MATCH REPORT – Abbey Women 5-12 OA Saints 4.12.22

In one of the best defensive displays so far this season, Abbey Women kept a fourth-placed Old Albanian Saints scoreless until three minutes before halftime, and replacement prop Hannah Gale’s second-half score was enough to secure a losing bonus point for the dogged home side.

It was a performance to be proud of on a blustery afternoon at Rosehill, where Abbey dominated large sections of the match through good game management and heroic tackles and carries. It was a complete turnaround from the team that were dominated by Thurrock two weeks ago and, buoyed by enjoying as near to a full strength squad as possible, Abbey put in a performance to be proud of.

It was Abbey who forced OAs to make some early unforced errors, encroaching into their territory through a series of penalties. The lineout, a real weapon of the home side all afternoon, worked well with Fern Edgar and Joey Fowler combining well, affording the back line some excellent front foot ball. Alice Denton-Rice made her usual probing runs, while Lou Pullan cleared up well from full back. 

Unfortunately, it was the one crucial lineout in OA’s 22 that Abbey couldn’t secure after so much possession and territory, and their outside centre Caroline Collie cleared to touch. It was now OAs turn to enjoy some possession and territory of their own, but Abbey’s defence was ruthless; huge dominant tackles from forwards Jess Potter and Maggie Simpson kept OAs on the back foot and continued to ensure their attack wasn’t completed.

In one of the best defensive efforts of the game, Abbey were camped on their own try line towards the end of the first half. Leading by example, captain Annabel Hawkins drove back OA’s attacking efforts, joined by omnipresent flanker Andi Barker and returning fly half Annette Bevan. But it was scrum-half Ellie Denton-Rice’s jackal turnover from a metre out that set the tone for the afternoon and buoyed the Nuns further. Unfortunately, the resulting penalty kick did not find touch and a fumble from Bevan afforded the visitors the scrum, which they worked out wide to cross in the corner.

Holding such a dominant team to just five points’ difference at the half was one of the best halves of rugby Abbey have enjoyed all season, and this continued into the second half. Capitalising on a yellow card for OA’s fly half Kirsty Exley, Abbey were able to enjoy more territory. The home side’s lineout was used as an invaluable driving maul weapon, with winger Kelsea Montgomery and Simpson linking up well using it as platform. The home forward back battered the line, with eventually replacement prop Hannah Gale barrelling over from close range for her maiden try in Abbey colours.

With the scores now level, Exley returned to the field, as did OA’s dominant winger Siobhan Drummond who immediately made an impact on the game with surging runs and strong fend offs. It was on the second of these runs, having been well contained by flanker Tori Kiff on the first, that Drummond managed to sneak into the corner for her side’s second try for the win, with Collie converting superbly from the touchline. 

Abbey continued to play, surging back into the visitor’s 22 in almost identical fashion to their previous attack. Bevan threaded through a grubber, forcing a knock on and a 5m scrum, and Hawkins picked and went for the line again. Replacement hooker Claire Stevens was unlucky to have a try disallowed after a series of carries, but the score remained 5-12.

After a series of losses where no league points were gained, Abbey will be pleased with a resilient performance and a losing bonus point against a side who have secured some impressive recent wins. With two fixtures left of 2022, Abbey travel to Bath next weekend before hosting Henley Hawks Women the weekend after in what promises to be a hotly-contested local derby.

All photos credited to @RugbyGrandad