READING Abbey put in a gutsy Southern Counties North performance against table-topping Witney, but were ultimately out-gunned 40-3 at Rosehill.

The hosts made a promising start and actually took the lead courtesy of an excellent Charlie Shackleford penalty from the right touchline, but their Oxfordshire opponents gradually took over until they took a 23rd-minute lead.

Abbey had not helped themselves by constantly being penalised for off-side, and eventually the pressure told and centre Callum Godfrey burst through to score a try to the left of the posts. Tom Puddle added the extras to make it 7-0.

The home side showed terrific heart in not conceding any points despite being reduced to 13 men with Mike Beckly and Ed House in the sin-bin, but a second converted Godfrey score on the stroke of half-time made it 14-0.

Witney moved further ahead early in the second period, an impressive break from second row Scott Mortimer resulting in a try on the left by wing Rhys Morgan, Puddle converting once again.

Witney effectively put the game to bed midway through the second half, a prolonged counter-attack eventually finished off by Alasdair Anderson secured the try bonus-point, and when Godfrey completed his hat-trick shortly after, the gap had risen to 30 points.

Abbey came the nearest they would to scoring a try after a superb 40-metre run up the right touchline by George House. Sol Wallis-Robinson, Jules Greenaway and Beckly got the ball to within a foot of the line, but a knock-on halted the move.

And it was Witney who had the final word, replacement Jake Thomas running in close to the posts after a superb run from man-of-the-match Godfrey. Puddle’s conversion should really have been the final action of a strength-sapping afternoon in difficult conditions, but a further unnecessary half minute was played before full-time was called.

Despite their defeat, Abbey’s players can hold their heads up after a gutsy performance, with Will Bevan setting a real captain’s example with his non-stop effort.

House shone during his brief cameo as a wing, George Sutherland made some telling breaks, and Treacle Knights was impeccable in the line-outs.

Abbey visit second-placed Aylesbury on Saturday.

l BERKSHIRE Shire Hall extended their Berks, Bucks & Oxon Two unbeaten run to five matches with a hard-fought 7-7 draw at Rams 4ths.

Shire Hall's points came from a Stephane Margot try in the 63rd minute, the conversion coming from Rhys Stewart. BSH visit Reading 3rds on Saturday.