READING Abbey Ladies slipped to an opening 22-12 defeat in their first cup fixture on Sunday, but earned a losing bonus point, writes Fiona Tomas.

The Emmer Green side came up short at the hands of Swindon-based outfit Supermarines – but the opportunity to blood a handful of second-string players and trial new positions yielded a plethora of benefits for the much-changed Berkshire side.

Liberated from the pressures of the league, wing Anais Carbon, along with forwards Meaghan Fowler and Emily Henderson, excelled in the first half to keep abreast of an early converted try.

After sustained pressure in Supermarines’ 22, Abbey were rewarded with a scrum and the ensuing passage saw the ball shipped wide to allow Annette Tomas to cross in the corner.

At 7-5, a two-point deficit was all that separated the sides at the break, but the Nuns struggled to retain their structure in the second half – as Supermarines’ attacking threat came to the fore.

A new partnership, however, between scrum-half Sarah Northover and Ellie Rice – who stepped into the shoes of fly-half – proved effective.

Rice herself produced several solid clearance kicks in a half which saw Abbey camped in their own 22.

Each side was briefly reduced to 14 players after indiscipline at the breakdown prompted the referee to send a player of each shirt off the field.

A loss in concentration from Abbey in defence allowed the Supermarines full-back to run in unchallenged to hand the home side a 12-5 advantage.

The Nuns, however, responded – and it was Tomas again who crossed for the visitors after a strong run from centre Alice Denton proved lethal in attack.

Denton – assuming her regular kicking duties from the tee – duly converted to level at 12-12 – by which time Imogen Mulvenna and Ellie Brooks had both entered the fold to make their first team debut in a Nuns’ shirt.

The pair heralded an immediate impact in what little attack Abbey implemented late on – with Mulvenna chasing several kicks downfield while Brooks competed well at the breakdown.

But it was Supermarines who enjoyed the final word, clinically scoring two tries late on to condemn a valiant effort by a much-changed Abbey line up to defeat.