XV vs Abingdon

Saturday, 22nd September 2012

Having been beaten soundly by more than forty points at Colts level, a game on The Field was an opportunity to test the mettle of a still developing XV. Some sound training during the week meant that the team were both mentally and physically prepared as they ran out for the first time from the changing room, led again by Vare. It seemed that the true attacking potential of the back three had also been realised, and from the outset the backline ran with a ferocious intensity, breaking the gain line within the first minute of posession, only to squander the chance with some poor finishing. An equally ferocious defensive line withstood the physicality of the experienced Abingdon backrow until a wayward pass flat on the gain line was pounced upon by Cobb.

The lead was short-lived, however, as a slack defence soon allowed an international centre to stroll through from the 22. This was not typical of the game, however, as Koessler, Ashworth and later Manley quickly worked a manmarking defensive system and contained an otherwise intimidating player. Both starting centres continued their good form from the previous week; Koessler chose his gaps well and Ashworth scored an interception try, juggling a pass from Abingdon’s sixteen year old fly-half. The pack was adrmirable, winning three scrums against the head and stealing from four opposition lineouts, and the scoreboard continued to tick over as Carleton-Smith slotted one conversion after another until the half was concluded at 29 – 7.

It was clear that, had the backs continued to play the open running game of the first half, Eton’s speed merchants would have quickly run an already tiring Abingdon outfit into the ground. However, the pack re-entered the contest with an added spring in their step. Some powerful rucking and carefully controlled phaseplay ensured that the tight five were able to dominate the contact. McRae, an indomitable physical presence, seemed to be everywhere, handling the ball beautifully in the loose play with Wrigglesworth whilst Goodall and De Villiers dealt the final blows, knocking the spirit out of the opposition with some truly bone-crunching tackles during a defensive period that lasted for almost a quarter of an hour.

The fact that the game was ended with ten minutes to go is a testament to a clinical performance that silenced any doubts about the XV’s ability to compete with the better sides on the circuit. Next week’s fixture against Radley will perhaps serve as a more realistic representation of the battles Eton will have to fight against Wellington, Harrow and Tonbridge.

Donald ma OS (MJP)