READING Abbey had sufficient power up front and ample first half territorial advantage to have obtained at very least a try-scoring bonus point in their Southern Counties North game at Stow-on-the-Wold, but the home side’s more experienced backs continuously exploited weaknesses in the visitors’ defence to run out 31-17 winners on Saturday.

Abbey conceded five tries, including two either side of half time, and, despite a late rally, they left Gloucestershire empty-handed.

The visitors started brightly and controlled possession and territory early on, but in the 12th minute, Stow full-back James Holmes caught the ball just outside his 22 and found a huge gap in midfield to burst clear.

Veering to the right, he fed Will Marks with a flat pass, and the wing evaded his opposite number Max Boucher and sped away for a try. Centre Freddie Roberts was just short of the target with his conversion, but the hosts led 5-0.

Abbey struck back quickly, though, going through the phases in their opponents' 22 until prop Lewis Jones powered over for a try.

Centre Charlie Shackleford landed an excellent conversion to put his side 7-5 up after 16 minutes, but a series of missed tackles then allowed flanker Toby Stayt to cross for a Stow reply.

Roberts converted with ease, and the home side had a lead they were destined never to relinquish.

Stow moved further in front courtesy of Stayt, the back row showing terrific pace to race clear on the stroke of half-time for a second converted score.

Trailing 19-7 at the interval, Reading Abbey needed a fast start after the break, but instead things got worse as Marks broke a weak tackle to find lock Ben Collett, who crossed for the bonus-point try.

Visibly buoyed by their latest score, Stow looked by far the better side over the next passage of play and Collett was allowed far too much space as he strolled over for his second try in six minutes. When Roberts’s conversion bounced over via a post, Abbey trailed 31-7.

Abbey raised their game again from this point onwards, though, and for much of the remainder of the contest they pounded away inside the Stow 22.

Unfortunately, promising moves were frequently ruined by handling errors, and the best efforts of the pack often went unrewarded aside from a Will Bevan try in the 58th minute and one scored by Mike Beckly when Stow's replacement lock Max Fisher was sin-binned late on.

Third-bottom Abbey are without a game this weekend, returning to action at home to Wallingford on Saturday, February 15.