AN Alice Denton hat-trick and a first try of the season for second row Fiona Manning inspired another impressive second-half performance from Reading Abbey Nuns, who showed their strength in depth after making some key positional changes due to injury to record a 41-5 victory at home to Plymouth Albion.

The visitors, despite having a shortened warm-up due to travel disruption, had the upper hand from the start, stringing together good phases and competing well at the breakdown; an area of their game which they dominated in.

Good interlinking play from their half-backs threatened the Nuns' try-line, but excellent defence in key areas kept them at bay, with characteristic strong tackles from Abi Wall and Jess Williams.

The Nuns showed great patience after a frustrating first quarter by regrouping and making good ground up the pitch through tactical kicking from the boot of Denton.

Utilising their dominant scrum to perfection the forward pack worked in perfect synchronisation, angling to allow Denton to cross in the corner for the Nuns' first try of the day.

Moments later, the Nuns pack surged forward again with strong carries from hooker Harri Driver and prop Jess Potter, and Meaghan Fowler was unlucky not to cross for a try which was heroically held up. From the resulting scrum, however, a series of strong forward carries started by Joey Fowler resulted in Manning crossing the whitewash.

Albion were keen to hit back before half-time and they did through powerful running from their No. 8, Terri Cormack, who burst through a gap in a moment of disarray for the Nuns' defence.

Quick hands out to the wing found Millie Chaston, who crossed for her side's only try of the day.

It was the Nuns who had the final say before half-time, with a chip-kick through from captain Annette Bevan resulted in Denton grabbing her second try after crossing from close-range.

The second half saw some key positional changes for the Nuns, with Alice Lawrence making a good impact from the bench with her carries and hits.

Quick, reactive play saw Wall cross from a tap penalty as well as Hollie King cross from short range.

The Nuns were now enjoying wide, expansive rugby and with Ellie Rice rejoining the pitch after a short lay-off from injury, the back three of Bevan, Katherine Shephard and Williams combined well to work the ball to the outer channels.

Denton rounded off her hat-trick in style on the back of a surging run from Williams, and Bevan completed proceedings in the opposite corner moments before the final whistle.

l READING Abbey men suffered a seventh Southern Counties North defeat in eight games as they were beaten 34-15 by second-placed Aylesbury.

Abbey – who sit 10th in the table – play the team one above them in the standings, Bicester, on Saturday.