Reading Abbey Ladies 12 Newbury RFC Ladies 26
Newbury Ladies captain Jeannie Ivanov has urged her team to strive for every bonus point for the remainder of the season after hailing her side’s “dog-fight” over Abbey Ladies.
Newbury powered to victory over their Berkshire rivals in a feisty local derby, which saw them extend their lead to five points at the top of Championship SW 2.
The Blues were forced to come from a try behind as Abbey touched down early on, before three second-half scores stunned the hosts to secure a vital victory.
But Ivanov has warned her side not to rest on their laurels as they bid to cement their table-topping spot and praised her side’s resilience.
“It’s always a dog-fight with Abbey. We knew the conditions and the home support would be intimidating and it was,” said the 36-year-old scrum-half.
“I’m so pleased we’re top of the league – but it’s not over yet. Abbey have a game in hand, so it’s important we get some more bonus points.
“We’ve got a decent run-in now and we can enjoy it and do what we do, playing as a team.
“We’ve had some challenges in squad availability, but we just come out and do it – I couldn’t be more proud of the players.”
Despite a slow start, Newbury settled into their territorial game through the boot of Meg Mason.
In game interrupted by knock-ons in greasy conditions, Jemma Thripp pounced on a loose ball in Abbey territory to dive in the corner, with Chloe Hunt adding her first of three conversions.
Despite some big hits from forwards Lotti Cargen, Carrie Smith and Meg Horwood, only two points separated the sides at the break, but Blues’ outfit pulled away in the second half.
When Abbey’s Meaghan Fowler saw yellow, Hannah Ward capitalised with the extra player on the outside, finding Ivanov who offloaded to a fiery Lizzie Harris who streaked through to score.
Their third minutes later was a display of individual class, when Lauren Hasset collected a high ball from the restart, ghosting between Abbey’s defence, before cutting inside from the left to cap a superb solo effort.
And victory was all but Newbury’s as Mason intercepted from an under-pressure Abbey back line to score under the posts.
It was a much-need response for Newbury following their defeat at home to second-placed Guildford a fortnight ago.
Coach Joe Harwood said: “We’re notoriously bad starters, but I’m really pleased with how we performed in the second half – we looked pretty dangerous when we had the ball.
“It’s always a special game between these two teams – so it’s extra nice to win this one.”