ABBEY Ladies coach Jack Reynolds believes his side can establish themselves as one of the biggest names in the women’s game in light of their second league promotion in as many years, writes Fiona Tomas.

The Nuns were granted automatic promotion last week after Hampstead – the team they were supposed to face in their championship play-off – conceded the match.

The unexpected decision saw the RFU automatically wave the Rose Hill outfit towards Championship South, where they will ply their trade next season.

Abbey, who were meant to contest the play-off at Windsor RFC last Sunday, instead celebrated with a club barbecue, which saw players’ friends, families and sponsors toast the side’s remarkable achievement.

It was somewhat bittersweet for the Berkshire outfit, who were preparing for the biggest game in their history after the news broke last Thursday of Hampstead forfeiting the tie in such anti-climactic fashion.

But after back-to-back league titles, Reynolds believes his side will be hungry to improve next season.

“There was so much ready to go out there on that pitch in terms of emotion, passion and desire to win against Hampstead, but now we’re going into the big arena,” said the Nuns coach.

“There are some big names in that league but in a few years, I believe we will be seen as one of those big names.

“We have the potential to push on even further. The challenge of playing in essentially what is the second tier of women’s rugby will spur the girls on.

And even though their season is now officially over, Reynolds insists league promotion has whet several of his players’ appetites within his squad.

“I have already seen a change of attitudes this week, with extra gym sessions being done by certain players,” he said.

“Regardless of what happens next season, we can only deal with what we have now, and what we have is a group of players who cannot wait to hit pre-season and get going again.”

  • READING Abbey men slipped to a disappointing 14-13 defeat at home to Wallingford in Southern Counties North on Saturday.

It was a frustrating afternoon for Luke Harding’s men, who dominated territory for long periods, especially in the first half, but failed to create enough scoring chances.

Ultimately, missed goal kicks cost them the game, but on the positive side they played with great heart and nearly grabbed a winning try in the frantic final exchanges.

The home side started positively and had a chance to take the lead, only for Matt Gingell’s attempted 38-metre penalty to fall well short, but they did go in front on 37 minutes when the flanker hit the target.

However, Abbey were caught napping just before the break when wing Pete McKinley took a quick tap. He cut through to the right corner, and supporting full back Dan Sadler crossed for a good counter-attacking try.

Skipper Phil Dawes converted from close to touch, and half time arrived with Wallingford leading, having soaked up no end of pressure.

Abbey started the second half superbly, though, Gavin Dampies setting off on a mesmerising run beforethe ball was recycled to Arron Ross (above).

He ran 15 metres to touch down for a great try in the left corner, albeit Diego de Marcilla Bahlsen could not convert, leaving Abbey 8-7 in front.

However, Wallingford responded immediately as centre Sam Botting showed his pace to cross for a converted score, and despite Will Bevan (left) touching down for Abbey late on, de Marcilla Bahlsen’s missed conversion attempt left his side coming up short.

Reading Abbey finish the season at promotion-chasing Windsor on Saturday (3pm).