READING Abbey fell to a 34-24 home defeat to Marlow in their opening Southern Counties North game of 2019.

Marlow started the better, and after Abbey's Ed House stole a line-out and grubber kicked through, visiting full back and captain Nick Carvey picked up the loose ball and countered, something he did exceptionally well throughout the game, leading to Marlow easily exploiting an overlap for left wing Nick Gorhan to score in the corner.

A difficult conversion was missed, but the away side had forged a 5-0 lead after just three minutes.

Marlow continued to capitalise on their early advantage, with fly-half Jamie Maddern pinning Abbey in their 22 with effective touch finders, with the line-outs resulting in a yellow card for Maurice O’Connell and then Ollie Charlton for disrupting the mauls.

The visitors kept pushing and eventually got their second try after an Arron Ross hold-up, with captain Carvey going over after another simple overlap making the score 12-0 after 15 minutes.

Abbey, however, rallied and forced themselves back into the game.

House, arguably the hosts' best player of the afternoon, made a barnstorming break through the middle and offloaded well to Max Courtnage.

The forwards secured the ball well giving Will Bevan an opportunity to chip in behind for Alex Langford-Pollard to chase.

He pressured his opposite number well allowing full back Jules Greenaway to pounce on a loose ball and grab Abbey’s first points out wide, and with Ollie Walton converting well, the gap had been cut to 12-7.

Abbey kept pressurising with a fully replenished 15 and Walton added a penalty to make it a two-point game.

With a spring in their step Abbey pushed on, a scrum enabled No. 8 Courtnage to make good ground down the blindside, but Langford-Pollard was tackled into touch after taking the offload.

However, O’Connell stole the line-out and finished off his own start to the move by breaking a tackle a couple of phases later and scoring left of the posts.

Walton added the extras to make it 17-12 after 35 minutes. This was also the half-time score, but only due to a notable defensive effort in particular by House, Greenaway and Langford-Pollard on the Abbey try line.

The second half began almost identically to the first, a score three minutes after the opening whistle with Maddern making a break down the right, and Ian Brown scoring after a couple of very well executed offloads.

The conversion was successful resulting in Marlow leading 19-17.

From here the visitors took the front foot and did not look back.

After a promising counter-attack, yet again through Carvey, was stopped by the Marlow physio, the away side started building up the phases.

This eventually led to a fantastic run by inside centre Miles Noble, beating three Abbey defenders to make the score 24-27 as the conversion was missed.

Although the visitors seemed to have finally gained control, Abbey kept fighting, once again House broke through the middle and offloaded to O’Connell, another one of Abbey’s stand-outs, taking Abbey to the Marlow 22.

After some impressive phase play Abbey crept up to the try line and eventually House went over for a well-deserved try.

Walton converted to bring the scores level at 24-24 after 60 minutes, but this was the last time Abbey were able to keep hold of the ball for any considerable amount of time.

Gorhan took his second try of the day seven minutes later after a turnover in the set piece, marking a period of messy play and poor handling inflicted by good defence by both sides.

The last score of the game to put the nail in Abbey’s coffin came with two minutes remaining, Noble going over for his second with an astutely chosen line off a maul to deny Abbey even a losing bonus-point.

The home side will be extremely disappointing with the final result as they were the better side going into the second half.

Marlow, however, were much quicker out of the blocks in both halves, giving Abbey an unnecessary uphill task.

Regardless of this Abbey defended very well in the tight, especially when two men down, and they showed considerable improvement from when they were thumped 43-8 at Marlow at the start of the campaign.

Ninth-placed Reading Abbey now face a huge derby when they visit Reading on Saturday (2pm).