A STRONG second-half comeback from Reading Abbey helped the home side clinch a tight 33-32 bonus-point win over third-placed Marlow in Southern Counties North.

Early indiscipline cost Abbey and the pacy Harry Yeomans crossed in the corner to open the scoring for Marlow.

Full-back Christian Witney could not convert, and the hosts reduced the deficit when Charlie Shackleford landed a penalty.

However, it was Marlow who crossed the whitewash again as James Forsyth took advantage of lacklustre Abbey defence to tip-toe his way to the line.

Although Shackleford landed another penalty, Marlow grabbed a third try when a poor kick-chase from Abbey allowed wing Stasio Maltby to dot down and three points from the boot of Christian Witney made it 18-6.

Yet Toby Staker's try on the stroke of half-time swung the momentum back into Abbey's hands and set a platform from which they attacked in the second period.

Although Forsyth grabbed Marlow's bonus-point try through a clever tap-and-go, which was converted to make the score 25-11 with 30 minutes remaining, Abbey produced a stunning fightback.

It began when Staker charged down a clearance kick, regathered the ball and released George House to score in the corner, and after the hosts went through the phases near the line, he was joined on the scoresheet by his brother Ed. Shackleford's conversion reduced the deficit to two points.

Moments later, skipper Will Bevan capitalised on a streaking run from No. 8 Matt Simmons, dummying before winning his side the lead for the first time all match when he crossed the whitewash. Shackleford added the extras to put Abbey 30-25 in front.

Another Shackleford penalty extended the lead to 33-25, but there was further drama in the closing stages as Abbey were reduced to 14 men following injuries to props Adam Postlethwaite and Lewis Jones.

Marlow capitalised on the extra man and scored a converted try through Charlie Cotton to bring the score to 33-32, but while the visitors opted to take their chances at the posts with two penalty kicks in the last three minutes, neither was successful and the Rosehill faithful were left delighted.

Third-bottom Abbey, who now sit nine points clear of the bottom two, host local rivals Reading on Saturday.