“Ask your players not to appeal any decisions” said the Abingdon umpires. “We will give what we see”. Hhhmm.
The A34 derby between Hawks and Abingdon 1’s was a feisty affair. Hawks went into this titanic clash full of spirit, even if the mighty England Rugby Union team could not bring home the William Webb Ellis trophy. After a resounding win over Marlow last week, Hawks started the first half with the wind in their sails. The fullback partnership of Tom Harris and Brett Morrison worked well, distributing balls only Ben Youngs could have dreamt of against the Springboks. Matt Oakes, Hawks very own Manu Tuilagi, ripped through Abingdon’s midfield whilst Chris Maidlow hurriedly went about his business along the forward line, much like Jonny May looking to dot down. With Dave Cooke, aka George Ford, orchestrating from the back and Rich Tyser (Mako Vunipola) carrying the ball with purpose, Hawks were knocking on the door for that all important first goal.
Despite Hawks’ early dominance, the deadlock was broken by Abingdon. It was an unmemorable finish and, probably, against the run of play. Hawks own breakthrough came towards the end of the first half. Captain Guy Biggs slotted a ball into the D for the ever-silky Paul Scragg to nonchalantly flick past the goalkeeper at the first time of asking. The scenes! Hawks were right back in this one. At half-time, the score was 1-1.
The half-time team talk was tough but fair. Regardless of frustrations, players were reminded not to appeal decisions and risk a card - something the skipper failed to avoid later in the game!
Abingdon came out firing in the second half and put Hawks under early pressure. However, this created numerous opportunities for Hawks on the counter-attack. Luke Piper, Hawks’ Billy Vunipola, dominated Abingdon’s defence with flair trickery and, much like big Billy, did so with members of the opposition team on his back.
As the second half wore on, it was clear that the next team to score would likely go on to win this bruising encounter. Unfortunately, it was Abingdon who struck the killer blow. It was a case of deja vu for Hawks. After watching England concede two late tries to South Africa earlier in the day, Abingdon scored from open play midway through the second half before firing in another from a short corner to end any hopes of a Hawks revival. Hawks would continue to persevere, but a goal was not forthcoming; even when they were awarded a handful of short corners of their own towards the end of the game.