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Tunbridge Wells Vs. Southend Saxons

On a grey and damp Saturday afternoon Wells welcomed Southend Saxons to St. Mark’s. With prolonged rain only stopping shortly before kick off, the players took to a wet surface for the 2.30pm kick off. A fit again Tim Collins came into the front row, Owain Withers started in the second row as did Charlie Dagwell in the back row with Mac Popham and the Doherty brothers returned to the starting line up along with Max Douch and Adam Webb on the bench.

Wells began with 15 minutes of possession with Southend getting little ball and relying on Wells giving away a flurry of penalties to relieve the pressure on their line. Wells needed to score during this period but the nearest they got was Hooker Luke Hawkins being denied a try after a deft crossfield kick from fly half Ryan Taylor – Dennehy fielded by Nick Doherty but the final pass was judged forward.

Southend gradually got back into the game with sensible wet weather tactics and Wells dominance of possession was gradually eroded as the visitors moved down the pitch and were rewarded after 24 minutes with a penalty from 25 meters kicked by fly half  Adam Dobson.

The visitors continued to dominate, as what possession Wells did achieve they kicked poorly out of hand back to the opposition, who then continued to apply pressure by concentrating on the narrow channels and not conceding penalties. This Southend pressure did not immediately reap points but after 32 minutes Charlie Dagwell was yellow carded for collapsing the maul and it did not take long for Southend to take advantage to score a driving maul try through No 6 Daniel Read close to the posts converted by Dobson to stretch the lead to 0-10  on 37 minutes.

With the wind and the slope in the second half Wells were now hoping to keep the score down to no more than this but a succession of penalties for offside and some more tactical errors as Wells were forced across the pitch saw Southend again on the Wells line deep into first half injury time. Despite a brave attempt to thwart the Southend battering of the line scrum half Tony Sprangers spotted a gap and was through at the posts to score a converted try from Dobson. This left Wells a tough ask in the conditions to come back from 0-17 at half time. To do so would require a lot more discipline, tactical understanding and technical delivery than had been shown in the first half.

Despite the slope in their favour the Wells untypically continued to run laterally in the third quarter with an occasional straightening by Christian Earle, Chas Dagwell and skipper Chas Spence. In general Southend maintained possession dominance despite the odd error at the lineout and it was not until substitutions around the 60 minute mark that Wells started to show more penetration particularly from a lively Max Douch on the right wing.

On 66 minutes Wells at last got some momentum into their game as the ever improving Christian Earle broke through and found Mac Popham on his shoulder to ultimately feed skipper Chas Spence for the try converted by Ryan Taylor-Dennehy  7-17. Wells now had the bit between their teeth and the running lines had straightened considerably. Max Douch put in a 45 metre break on 74 minutes to find Chas Spence on his shoulder who fed hooker Luke Hawkins for the try but Taylor- Dennehy could not convert. 12-17.

From the kick off Wells came roaring back down the right as Southend started to look deflated but sadly the lack of a game plan and lack of discipline at the offside line for much of the game cost them dear as the final whistle blew on a match which Wells in normal form would have secured early on.

Credit, however, must be given to Southend for cutting out the errors and adopting simple wet weather tactics to secure the winning points.

Next week is a league blank and the Wells coaches and players will need to look long and hard at how they get the bright early season start to this level of rugby back on track before visiting local rivals Sidcup in two weeks time.

Squad: Tim Collins, Luke Hawkins, Carl Straeche, Kyle McGarvie, Owain Withers, Christian Earle, Mac Popham, Charlie Dagwell, Nick Doherty, Adam Webb, Chas Spence, Ryan Taylor – Dennehy, Matt Spicer, Max Douch,  Shaydn Osgood, Mike Doherty, Blaise Salle, Olly Allman.