READING Abbey opened their season with a 30-17 Southern Counties North defeat in a rather lacklustre game in the High Wycombe sunshine. The visitors scrummaged well, but they suffered badly on the injury front, losing a number of key players during the game.

Despite these setbacks, they battled to the end and were unlucky not to get a losing bonus point.

After a scoreless opening 20 minutes it was the hosts who went in front – High Wycombe had been attacking inside the Abbey 22, and when the ball was kicked over the line flanker Joff Forber was obstructed as he chased it.

Referee Emer O’Kelly had no hesitation in awarding a penalty try to give the home side a 7-0 lead.

Abbey hit back, however, as prop Gerry Sutherland powered over for a try, Charlie Shackleford converting superbly to level and ensure the half-time score was 7-7.

A neat Matt Wardle drop goal followed by a penalty put Wycombe six points to the good early in the second half, and No. 8 Craig Murray then went over for a converted try in the 62nd minute to put his side 20-7 up.

Yet the visitors hit back from a five-metre scrum, Sol Wallis-Robinson breaking to the right before flanker Guilliam Slaven charged over for a well-deserved try.

Another excellent kick from Shackleford cut the deficit to six points, and with around 10 minutes remaining it was game on.

Unfortunately for Abbey, their hopes of snatching the lead were short-lived.

They were unable to clear their lines as High Wycombe sought to close the game out in the visitors’ 22, and when another penalty was conceded Wardle again found the target.

At 23-14 Abbey went in search of at least a losing bonus point, and they seemed to have got what they deserved as the game entered injury-time when Shackleford held his nerve to land a penalty from wide on the right.

But in the final play of the match, Forber latched onto a loose Abbey clearance and set off on a brilliant 25-metre run to the line for what was easily the try of the match.

Wardle’s conversion ended the game, and Abbey were left with nothing to show for their efforts.

Reading Abbey will look to bounce back at home to Marlow on Saturday.