IN what was arguably their best first-half performance this season, Reading Abbey Nuns were clinical from the off with strong forward carries setting the tone in a superb 29-0 victory at Cullompton.

Capitalising on some early penalty advantages for the hosts straying offside, the Nuns kicked well into the right areas of the pitch to set the platform for the afternoon from which their dominant set-piece was showcased.

Scrum-half Ellie Rice and No. 8 Annabel Hawkins controlled the ball well at the back of the scrum, with hooker Harriet Driver winning several balls against the head.

It wasn't long before Nuns executed a textbook move from the training paddock, releasing full-back Caroline Shephard to score in the corner.

Cullompton bit back, but the Nuns' defence was at a completely new level and huge tackles from Fi Manning, Alice Lawrence and Hollie King ensured the home side were marched back time and time again.

Forcing the Cullompton full-back, Emma Mingo, to kick, the ball was gathered by Shephard who deftly offloaded it to Sarah Odenbach, a flanker by trade who was playing out of position at inside centre.

In the disarray, Nuns exploited the chaos with Odenbach releasing a well-timed pass to captain Annette Bevan who raced in under the posts; her try was duly converted by outside centre Alice Denton.

Nuns were playing patiently now, and with great confidence, allowing them to play wide, expansive rugby with excellent interlinking play between the forwards and the backs with Meaghan Fowler offering good distribution skills.

Opting to take a scrum at yet another penalty, it was only a few phases later that prop King crashed over from short range, with Denton adding the extras yet again.

The second half brought renewed hunger for a bonus-point win on the road, but injury to wing Jess Williams forced the Nuns to make some key positional changes; Denton moved to the wing as Hawkins came into the backs.

Unperturbed, Nuns continued to press forward and a chip through from Bevan saw her grab her second try. Back rowers Fern Edgar and Hannah Bosher brought impact from the bench as Nuns looked to extend their lead, under the leadership of the experienced Fowler pairing who had led from the front all match.

With minutes to go, a strong attack from deep by Denton released Bevan to complete her hat-trick and the bonus-point win; the Nuns now looked to close the game out and maintain a clean sheet, which they did with great success.

It was a remarkable victory so far from home, and sees the Nuns move 11 points clear at the top of Championship South West 2 ready for the New Year.

Nuns travel to Beckenham for the next round of the Intermediate Cup on Sunday 15th December, in their final match before Christmas.

l READING Abbey men climbed out of the Southern Counties North bottom two by beating basement side Chesham 35-7.

Abbey are at home to second bottom Didcot this Saturday (2.30pm).