After last week’s disappointing result against Henley, Abbey Women regrouped to deliver a bonus-point victory over a strong Hove side to kickstart their Championship 1 South campaign.
Four tries apiece from Abbey and Hove ensured a well-contested game of rugby for the crowd, but in the end it was the boot of Rose Brown and Abbey’s game management as a whole that secured the home side’s first Championship win since February 2019.
It was a scintillating opening quarter for Abbey, as Charlotte Faux and Hollie King finished off well-worked team moves by crossing the whitewash on style; Faux from a barnstorming solo run and King muscling over from short-range. Inspired by scrum-half Tess Braunerova’s quick-tempo style of play, as well as strong carries from debutant Nasya Munga, Abbey started the brighter team. With Brown converting Faux’s try, the hosts took an early 12-0 lead.
Hove, an experienced Championship side, responded well and quickly, with their half-back combination of Henrietta Martin-Hierro and Josie Nelder working the forward pack up the pitch until both their props crossed for tries in quick succession. Abbey were falling foul of the referee, and several penalties for offside in quick succession allowed Hove to capitalise and send props Giorgia Palethorpe and Karen Orford for their sides first scores.
Although Abbey enjoyed more possession and first-half territory, ambitious offloads led to numerous handling errors, thwarting any attacks. It was Hove who almost had the final day of the half, with a good attack from centres Alice Turnbull and Beth Tetlow, but solid Abbey defence forced the knock on.
The second half brought the wind in Abbey’s favour, which Brown, Braunerova and fly-half Annette Bevan started using in Abbey’s favour, pinning Hove back in their 22. Impact from the bench in the former of the returning Hannah Bosher inspired the forwards to make ground, with King, Potter and Gale making surging runs. Eventually it was the dynamic Munga who proved too hard to bring down, grabbing Abbey’s third try.
With not just the win, but the bonus-point in Abbeys sights, they pressed on. However, further ill-discipline, this time around the breakdown, allowed Hove several quick penalties, which saw them move the ball quickly through their back line for their winger Abi Martin to score in the corner.
Abbey responded quickly with further territorial kicking, winning a scrum on Hove’s five metre line. After an immense effort from the pack, Braunerova found Bevan who dummied and darted in to seal the bonus-point. Shortly after, co-captain Abi Wall, who had put in a spectacular performance, saw yellow, giving Hove had the last say, with their opposite winger Abi Radford dotting down shortly after.
Abbey responded positively after last week’s opening defeat, with a much more cohesive team performance to beat a seasoned Championship side. With table-toppers Thurrock as their next opponents in two week’s time, the league newcomers will be keen to cause an upset on the road.
Hollie King touches down for her first try this season : Photo credit to John Taplin @rugbygrandad