READING Abbey secured the bragging rights with a narrow but deserved victory over rivals Reading RFC in a derby played in challenging conditions, writes Annette Tomas.

Returning Abbey captain Will Bevan, sidelined after the last bruising derby encounter with a fractured collarbone, fittingly scored the only try of the afternoon as both sides battled with a harsh wind and numbing cold at Rose Hill.

With the wind behind them, Abbey dominated the first half as Reading struggled to gain territory with any clearance kicks often blown off course by the gale.

By contrast, the Abbey pack made strong carries, led by the impressive Treacle Knights and Maurice O’Connell, and threatened the line several times before finally crossing it just before half time.

Reading were left to rue their indiscipline as a yellow card left them a man short – and the home side quickly capitalised on their advantage when a superb driving maul left a small gap for scrum-half Bevan to dive over.

Flanker Matt Gingell was unlucky with the extras as the ball bounced off the upright.

Reading did not learn their lesson and erred again with a high-tackle moments before the interval, causing the referee to reach for his pocket once again.

And Abbey rubbed salt into Reading wounds by extended their lead with a well-struck penalty from Gingell to give them an 8-0 lead.

It was soon Reading’s turn to enjoy the wind on their backs after the turnaround, and they tested Abbey’s resolve with a barrage of probing kicks.

But the Abbey back three of Gavin Dampies, Remi Norville and Matt Seabourne returned them with gusto.

The home side’s attacking opportunities were slim, but their defence was outstanding and time after time marched Reading back up the pitch.

Mike Beckly, starting at inside centre for the first time, lead the back line with a series of crunching tackles, while the pack were superb, turning over two scrums against the head.

Reading, though, continued to threaten and they finally got on the scoreboard when Abbey prop Ollie Charlton was penalised for illegal scrummaging and the referee raced under the posts to award a penalty try, which was duly converted.

If anything, this spurred the home side on and they stepped up their defence further, even when Chris Shaw became the third player sent to the sinbin during the game after a penalty at the breakdown.

Sadly, the contest ended on a sour note following a serious injury to Reading winger Ben Wills, forcing the game to be moved to another pitch with three minutes remaining.

And Abbey’s dominant pack managed to run the clock down from there with a series of strong carries before Bevan had the delight of kicking the ball off the field to signal the final whistle.

It was Abbey’s first win under Luke Harding’s tenure and an impressive response to their 37-6 loss at title-chasing Beaconsfield the previous week.

It leaves them seventh in the Southern Counties North table with 38 points ahead a home fixture against 10th-placed Stow-on-the-Wold this Saturday (2.15pm).

Reading, however, have now lost five games in a row and have won only once in 2018, leaving them eighth in the table but nine points behind Abbey.

It doesn’t get any easier for Reading either as they travel to new Southern Counties North leaders Buckingham this Saturday (2.15pm).