We arrived at Reading Abbey’s ground during monsoon season, with driving rain and a howling Nor’ Easter covering the area. Despite this, the facilities, clubhouse and pitches all looked in great condition. Spirits were high, and the Abs changing room rang to tales of dark deeds and evil misdoings on tour.
If ever the toss was going to be important to win, today was it. The winners would start from uphill, and with the strong wind at their backs. Abbey won, and the game commenced with Abs kicking into the wind.
Abs followed up the short kick, and drove to the 22, then a maul to the 10, and a ball out to the wing saw them make the 5 metre. Possession was lost here, and with everyone pressing up on attack, a darting run by an Abbey winger, saw a pitch long run for the first try, converted, 7 - 0.
The restart saw a similar story, and again Abs drove following up the kick. This time, on Reading’s 22, most of the backs were involved in a ruck, and when the ball shot out to the Reading wing, there was no defence to counter another try run in from half the pitch. Not converted 12 - 0.
The next restart was handled much better by Reading, and they went on the attack, pushing up to Abingdon’s 22, and winning a scrum. Conditions were deteriorating and the usually solid Abs scrum lost footing, the ball shot out to a Reading blindside winger at pace, who ran in the try, not converted 17 - 0.
For the next 10 minutes Abingdon take possession and put on some fierce pressure. First Will Barker feeds a ball to Alex Lungu , who charges up to the Reading 5. Hard rucking follows, but Reading come away with the ball, and kick to relieve pressure. James Hartley collects, and pushes back right to the Reading 5, where a scrum is awarded. Again Reading manage to clear their lines with a wind assisted kick to the halfway.
Now Reading take up the attack, and some amazing defending is called for by Abingdon.
First a ball is chipped through and looks destined to fall for two Reading players., but Sam sees the danger, races back and collects brilliantly 5 metres from his line, and Dougie gets it out to the 22.
Another push for the line is stopped and held up by Dougie, then from a 5 metre scrum, Dougie clears up a messy loose ball and grounds it. A great spell of defensive play by the nimble fairy. Next, Luke collects the ball under pressure and goes on the attack, to be stopped on his own 22.
Eventually though, this pressure by Reading paid off and they ran in another try out wide on the wing, unconverted. 22 - 0
A messy start to the second half, as the rain continues to fall, and the wind makes kicking difficult. Eventually, Thomas Mooring kicks a penalty with the wind, and puts the ball out on Reading’s 5 metre. Despite Reading winning the line out, Alex Lushington steals, and Josh carries to the 5 again. A penalty is awarded to Abingdon, and Alex Lushington taps and goes, and creates one of his trademark breakthrough tries. Thomas Mooring converts. 22 - 07
The wind continues to assist Abingdon, and a kick from Ross goes down to Reading’s 10 from Abingdon’s 10. Ben Kili receives a nasty blow to the head, and has to take some time to regain his feet. A rousing round of applause follows as Ben decides he is ok to carry on.
A bit of over enthusiasm shortly after, and Alex Lungu is invited by the referee to sit out the next 10 minutes.
Reading put together an attack, and skilfully offload as a series of good tackles go in from Ben Hedges, Ben Kili, Thomas Mooring, and Jacob. Each pass out creating an overlap that means they run in for an unconverted try. 27 - 7.
Handling and kicking is now even more difficult as the pitch had started to cut up quite badly, and most of the remainder of the match was a mud bath in mid pitch. One brief breakout by Abingdon saw Jorges chasing down a long kick from Gareth, but it agonisingly bounced into touch before Jorges could collect and run over.
The final whistle blew just as the wind dropped, the rain stopped, and the sun came out!
A bruising, but very entertaining first ever match against Reading Abbey, and talks of rematches and friendlies for next season are already being discussed. In many aspects of the game the two sides were well matched, so fingers are crossed for a less intrusive part being played by Mother Nature next time.
Funny moment of the game : A packed to the rafters club house after the match, when mysteriously an eggy whiff clears a pocket of free space just in front of the bar.
The scram down: The after match food of meaty pasta was well received by the lads, and got a very good report of……….NOM. (This is teenage speak for “Crikey, that’s a tasty treat“ apparently) Thanks to Reading for the food, which considering how busy it was, must have taken some organisation.
This researcher sampled the pre-match bacon and two sausage meaty treat in a large floured bap. Excellent quality, and quantity at a very good price sees it get a healthy 8.8 on the buttyometer.
NB. Apologies to all who turned up expecting to sample the fabled “Reading Roll” of two seasons ago. (This was our first time at Abbey, I got the wrong club. Scram was tip top here too though.)
Guest player : Our second attempt to secure a Pacific Islander as our guest player ended less than well. Henry Tuilagi (brother of Manu, Freddie, Alensana, Anitelea and Sanele) seemed a safe bet as he had no history of jumping off boats, and our research suggested he was the calm one of the family. Our research consisted of a brief chat over a Guinness. It maybe should have stretched to searching out this link before we went ahead and booked him. http://www.rugbydump.com/2009/10/1128/henry-tuilagi-absolutely-smashes-ben-foden
Anyway. So Henry arrives at Abingdon club and prepares to travel with us, but says he has to run into the clubhouse first. We presumed he meant he wanted to go in for a wee, but he just wanted to run into the clubhouse! He dropped his shoulder and hit the main doors at about 40mph. Glass and shrapnel flew everywhere, and the whole structure collapsed in a heap. “Ok, I’m ready to go now” said Henry, smiling from ear to ear.
It was unfortunate that Robin then asked him if he could drive the minibus for us. “Oh yes, I can drive that easily”, he said as he dropped his shoulder, and hit the van so hard he drove it onto the pitch!!
What happened next was messy…..very messy.
“No, no , no”, said Simon. “What we meant was, can you run the team over?”
Personally, I saw the glint in Henry’s eye as he heard these words, and had run away before he had dropped his shoulder. Those screams of pain I heard behind me will stay with me a long time though. I was decided to park Henry on the bench for this one.
After much discussion, the parents and coaches have decided that trying to book celebrity players hasn’t been the greatest success this year, so they will be trying something new next season……what could possibly go wrong? !!!!!!
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