Abingdon were again shorne of regular players tonight, with Adam Simcox joining the sick list along with Alex and Will, and James Ashton unavailable due to school commitments. Oxford were unrecognisable from the side beaten heavily by Abingdon at the start of the season, and on a hard flat pitch, they gave Abingdon a huge challenge.
Oxford started strongly, putting the home side on the back foot, and it wasn't long before the Oxford fly-half broke through tackles to score under the posts. His conversion hit the post and bounced back, but still, a 5-0 lead. Sasha Swannell emerged hobbling after the ruck that led to the try, so more then ever it was time for his team mates to step up. But not long after, the Oxford flanker picked up the ball from a 5-m scrum and broke two tackles to score. This time Harry Gibson was hurt. Certainly the power of the Oxford forwards and the bone-hard pitch were taking no prisoners. At 12-0 down, Abingdon at last started to play a little rugby, with Sasha leading by example, and Calum Belprez doing his best to charge through as many tackles as possible. The problem this evening was support though, and too many times breaks were not supported and the ball turned over. Still, Abingdon fought hard and did well to turn around only 12-0 down.
The second half started as the first had, and, again from a scrum, Oxford surged over for their third try. Unbelievably, the Oxford fly-half hit the post with his conversion for a second time. As the Oxford pressure mounted Max Sutner made two try-saving tackles to keep Abingdon in the game, the second of which saw him miss the initial tackle, then run down the Oxford wing and tackle him into touch. However, Abingdon never got on the front foot. Too many times breaks were not supported, leading to aimless passes or desperate hands in the ruck, and from one of these the ball ran loose only to be scooped up by Oxford hand and run back in for an easy try. Two more quick tries made it 38-0. By this time the Abingdon boys were shell shocked and a Sasha try, running from half-way was little consolation. Final score 38-5
Firstly, congratulations to Oxford. They have come on in leaps and bounds since the start of the season, and in their no 7 and no 10 they have strong players. The Oxford tackling was sound, their rucking was dynamic and their set piece was very strong. For Abingdon, this was a disappointing performance. There was certainly a lot of effort out there, but some of the basics let them down; tackling, passing and support. Tonights game was a tough lesson for them - but I'm sure they will be better for it and come out next time and show how they really can play!