City hold on to beat promotion rivals

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MILTON Keynes took a giant step towards promotion from the Southern Counties North league by winning 17-10 away at title rivals Reading Abbey on Saturday.

Reading began the day at the top of the table, but three first half tries gave the visitors a platform to hold on after the break as they secured easily their most important victory of the season, and their 10th in a row.

The win leaves City third in the table, level on points with Abbey and only two points behind Grove who went top after thumping Slough 86-10.

With a favourable run of fixtures to come, starting at home to Slough this Saturday, City look well placed to push for promotion in the second half of the season.

City knew that victory against Abbey would be crucial to keep their hopes of automatic promotion alive. They began well, but missed a good opportunity to open the scoring when Phil Powell was off target with an early penalty attempt.

Powell made up for it a few moments later though, bursting through down the left side to score their opening try of the day. He was off again off target with the conversion attempt, but City were off to a flying start.

It got even better when Rob Lasbrey crashed over for the visitors’ second try shortly afterwards, this time converted by Powell to give City a 12-0 advantage.

And they were in dreamland with half an hour on the clock as Richard Hill was able to force his way through the Abbey back line to touch down for try number three, with Powell failing to add the two extras as City stretched their lead to 17 points.

However, the hosts gave themselves hope before the break, forcing their way through the City defence to score their first try and set up an intriguing second half.

City would need to withstand lots of pressure to leave with the victory they so desperately needed, but they had a chance to make life much easier for themselves midway through the second half when the hosts were caught offside.

If Powell converted the penalty which was on offer then Abbey would need to score three times to bridge the gap. But he missed the opportunity, keeping the score at 17-5 to City going into the final 20 minutes.

Lifted by their second half pressure, Abbey eventually broke through down the left side to secure their second try, unconverted, to make it 17-10.

But for all their efforts, City managed to hold on and claim what could prove a vital win in the promotion battle.

Stuart Tomkinson was inspirational in City’s victory – epitomised late on when he secured the ball from the maul under the visitors’ posts and ran directly down field to take the heat out of the attack.

Abbey claimed a losing bonus point to remain ahead of City in the table, but the men from Emerson Valley had their revenge for losing to the Berkshire side earlier in the season. And with 10 league wins in a row, Milton Keynes are now the team to beat this season.