STOW-on-the-Wold Rugby Club’s 10-8 defeat at Reading Abbey made it three narrow losses since early December by a margin of just six points.

The Cotswold outfit hope their luck will soon turn in Southern Counties North where they remain sixth in the table.

Third-from-bottom Reading Abbey soon worked out Stow’s first-choice kicker was absent and they were happy to give a string of penalties away.

Without Nick Cafearo to slot them, Stow kept kicking for territory but failed on numerous occasions to win the resulting line-out.

The referee seemed reluctant to issue a yellow card for persistent infringements, even when James Kelly was brought down by his neck while making good ground. Stow’s pack was put under pressure in the setpiece but a few changes soon saw them retain parity.

But Reading turned their pressure into points with a converted try and a penalty to deservedly lead 10-0 at half-time.

The second period was a big improvement for Stow with Ben Ulmer, a second row turned winger, scoring a fine try with George Roddan’s conversion going just wide.

The forwards appeared to have the edge and the backs ran hard but the breakdowns got messy.

Reading bodies over the ball encouraged rucking, which the ref thought was unnecessary and the yellow card was waved.

In the next phase, he raised it again for a tackle allegedly without arms, reducing Stow to 13 men. But they held out well and Roddan slotted a penalty to make it 10-8.

When Stow returned to 15 players late on, there was not enough time for a winning score as Reading’s defence held firm, despite strong running and good inter-play. Both teams missed chances and will do far better after blowing the Christmas cobwebs away.

Stow’s next league game is at home to mid-table Royal Wootton Bassett on January 25.

  • Chipping Norton visit leaders Tadley on Saturday in the Berks/Bucks and Oxon Premier Division after last weekend’s game with Aylesbury Athletic was postponed.