Match report – London Irish Wild Geese 17 Tunbridge Wells 29

Tunbridge Wells travelled to Hazelwood, Sunbury on Thames on Saturday hoping to repeat their win over London Irish Wildgeese at St Mark’s earlier in the season. Played under lights on a perfect pitch the game was to be heavily influenced by a strong cross field wind which affected both sides’ ability to put together consistent periods of play. 

In a stop start first half, Wells were awarded a penalty on 17 minutes which Reynolds converted from 20 metres out, to go 3 nil up.  Three minutes later this advantage was cancelled out when the home side were given a penalty on Wells’ 22 for offside. Three all.  With the Wells scrum under pressure LIWG managed a sustained period of possession in midfield.  Poor Wells tackling allowed Willie Lafolafo, the impressive LIWG flanker, to burst through for a converted try close to the posts on 30 minutes to give the home side a 10 – 3 advantage.  

In the build-up to the try Wells’ hooker, Stuart Nicholls, suffered a cut to the head and had to leave the field being replaced by Josh Hawkins, with Nick Doherty moving to hooker. Wells came back in the remainder of the half with strong forward play keeping them in the LIWG 22 but they were unable to convert this territory into points.

Wells emerged for the second half with a more determined air and when LIWG were penalised at a lineout on the Wells 10 metre line the penalty was taken quickly and a 50 metre surge downfield resulted in Mike Doherty scoring a try which Reynolds converted.  Ten all.  On 53 minutes, quick thinking and precise handling resulted in the Wells running the ball from their own 22.  They outpaced the opposition and captain, Ryan Taylor-Dennehy, scored in the corner.  The wide out conversion was missed by Reynolds. Three minutes later Wells scored again when Mike Hathaway touched down under the posts following strong running from No 8, Nick Doherty, and Taylor-Dennehy.  With the conversion Wells had turned the game around in a quarter of an hour and led 10 – 22.

However, LIWG did not crumble, and on 65 minutes following sustained pressure on the Wells’ line, the hardworking Lafolafo forced himself over close to the posts.  A successful conversion closed the gap to 17-22 with 15 minutes to play.  

However, the best was yet to come.  Following a Wells scrum on half way the ball was moved quickly to left winger Max Hobbs who with great pace and scintillating footwork beat three defenders in running infield and successfully scoring under the posts, securing the try bonus point.  Reynolds converted to make the score 17-29, and, despite energetic play from both sides in the final ten minutes, this was how the game ended.  This leaves Tunbridge Wells seventh in the table on 47 points and LIWG fighting against relegation. 

Wells next game will be on 15 February at St Mark’s against CS Stags 1863, 2.30 kick off.

By Alan Skinner

Elsewhere in the league…..

Rochford Hundred’s advantage at the top of the table over Guernsey is now just one point but they are more likely to delight in their 12-3 win over third placed Wimbledon than focus on this. They now have 84 points with the Channel Islanders on 83 after their resounding 10-52 win at CS Stags. Wimbledon stay on 75. Dorking’s equally comfortable 12-46 victory at a struggling Bedford Athletic means that they are now 4 clear (on 54 points)  of Hertford and 6 ahead of Sevenoaks in 6th after these two fought out a 10-10 stalemate at Knole Paddock. We are now on 47 points in 7th just three ahead of Sidcup, who also banked a bonus point in a 32-17 win over bottom-placed Guildford. 

There is then a 9 point gap to Brighton who’s fine 4 match winning run now sees them up to ninth on 35 points replacing Tring, after a 13-16 win on the road in Hertfordshire. None of the bottom four teams picked up any points so it’s then CS Stags (31), London Irish Wild Geese (27), Bedford Athletic (24) and Guildford (20).

Next Saturday heralds a “rest week”, but not for the players of Sidcup and Sevenoaks who play their rearranged fixture in South London. On the 15th when we host CS Stags, there is the always keenly contested Hertford v Tring “derby” and Sevenoaks go to Guernsey. Guildford will be wary of the Wimbledon backlash too….

Academy Continue to Build With Win Against Dartfordians

Sunday 19 Jan was Academy’s first home game of the season – the weather had taken its toll on St Marks pitches but The Skinners School kindly stepped in to offer one of their pitches.

Wells turned out a squad of 22 against visiting Dartfordians in front of a decent crowd. Wells Academy had put in some good recent performances but as a relatively new squad need time to start working together, string a few phases together and to start unlocking their true potential.

Early into the first half, Sam Dupuy spotted space on the wing and floated a sublime pass out to Harry Child at fullback who opened up the scoring. Sam Dupuy converted 7-0.

It was the forwards turn next as first Will Hawkesfield and then Jamie Phillips made strong carries before offloading to Dan Solomon who scored under the posts. The conversion making the score 14-0.

Straight from the whistle Markuss Launovics made a 50m run to put scrum-half Innes Woodhouse back under the posts for the third try. Sam Dupuy converted and the half ends 21-0.

With 22 players Wells Coaches made a number of half-time changes and sent players back on to the pitch with a discussion on reducing the number of penalties conceded ringing in their ears.

Wells took the squad changes in their stride and it wasn’t long before the backs started to click again and Euan Symonds went in for the opening try of the second half. Score 26-0.

Sam Dupuy made a great break and with some fantastic individual skill ran a try in from halfway. With him slotting his own conversion the score ticked over to 33-0.

Wells continued to apply pressure and of the back off a ruck, Harry Child spotted space, made a great line and off a pop-pass from Sam Dupuy went in for his second try of the game. Wells really enjoyed their rugby with the forwards and backs working well together, Cam Keys spotted an opportunity in the corner for another try but the conversion was missed.

Wells still weren’t done with Connor Bourne on the wing, not wanting to miss out, scored in the last play of the game the conversion made the final score 49-0.

The Academy coaching team watch on

Match Report – Tunbridge Wells 11 Rochford Hundred 22

Wells started this home game back on grass at St Marks facing the league leaders after a tough three weeks against top sides, and having been forced to change their front row with Carl Straeche injured and Stuart Nicholls and Aston Croall unavailable. Charley Smith moved from second row to prop, Kyle McGarvie started as hooker, Mike Hathaway and Rich Murray returned and Duncan Hales, Jake Smith and Richard Webster formed a new bench.

Both sides completed the first quarter of this game without being able to dent their respective defences with possession fairly even and most of the play in midfield. The Wells set scrummage stood up well and the back row of Doherty, Hathaway and Pancaldi did enough to secure ball in the turnover. It took until the 27th minute for Wells to get on the scoreboard with a simple penalty which a number of touch line pundits thought could have been a penalty try.  3-0.


After this period of play Wells had some bright spots in the game with Horne, Murray and Hobbs looking sharp but the large and physical pack from Rochford were enjoying a larger share of the ball. It said much for Wells’ team defence that despite pressure it took until the 36th minute for this to be translated into points as Wells dropped the ball behind their line and Rochford 8 Hudson got the touch down 3-5.

Rochford continued to apply pressure and Wells were punished for this indiscipline as first Smith and then Hawkins were sent to the sin bin and Wells were down to 13 as halftime approached. Surprisingly this didn’t seem to hinder their game in attack at all because as injury time beckoned skipper Ryan Taylor- Dennehy pick the ball off his toes from a loose kick and initiated a great run and spinning break to find Mike Doherty on his shoulder to finish off a 45 metre move for the try and to finish the half down in numbers but 8-5 in the lead. A lead they just deserved as Rochford finished a half in which they never seemed to get going.

Wells started the second half back to 14 but faced a different Rochford side who had received an audible roasting from their coach during the interval. They had a simple  and limited game plan which was to use their physicality and maul and drive to the line.

Wells could gain little ball at this juncture and Rochford camped in their half. Further valiant defence could not prevent a succession of mauls from penalties to the corner seeing an early score as the maul rolled over the home line for a try to Rochford hooker Ferrier on 48 minutes 8-12 with a Greenhall conversion.


Wells now back to full numbers had brighter moments with Eukaliti, Hathaway, Doherty and Hawkins punching some midfield holes. This got the home side closer to the Rochford try line and on 50 minutes Reynolds got the scores within a point with a penalty 11-12. This was followed by a Horne break with Reynolds in support but Hathaway couldn’t hold the final pass.

Pressure then began to tell again as Wells lost all line out precision and with it the opportunity to keep possession which was then added to by the loss of scrum half Eddie Croft to a third yellow card of the game on 57 minutes. Despite these handicaps Wells kept Rochford out until the 63rd minute when a succession of bravely defended pick and drives finally brought success to Rochford as Wells were sucked in and the ball was moved swiftly to left wing Meads for a try in the corner 11-17.


The last 10 minutes of the game approached with Wells still having a say in the game and with a chance of at least a losing bonus point but Rochford pack pressure continued and with some inaccurate attempts at touch kicks from the Wells their task was aided. Rochford yet again camped on the Wells line and patiently picked and drove which despite further valiant defence ultimately saw Rochford’s very well built 6 Duaibe score the try 11-22.


Wells with their usual spirit roared back and had a good go at getting something out of the game. In injury time Rochford’s 5 Shields was sent to the bin but this was too late to help the cause and the final whistle blew with the home side on the Rochford 22.


This was a spirited performance from a Wells side that is still capable – once the squad is returned to full strength – of a top 6 place in this their third season in this league.


Discipline and line out technique cost them in this game but the work of a makeshift front row, the return of Mike Hathaway and a promising performance off the bench from Duncan Hales are all cause for optimism as the side look forward to their game against London Irish Wild Geese at Sudbury this Saturday KO 2 30pm.


By Roger Clarke


Elsewhere in the League

It’s a case of “as you were” at the top with the three leading sides all gaining bonus point wins. Rochford Hundred’s victory at St Marks moved them on to 80 points ahead of Guernsey on 78, after the Channel Islanders laboured to a 29-19 win over our next opponents, London Irish Wild Geese, having been behind twice. Wimbledon stayed hot on their respective heels on 75 points (with their game in hand against us in March) after a comfortable 42-19 win over Sidcup.


Dorking’s strong form since beating us in December (they have now won four in a row after seeing off Tring 38-22) sees them climb to 4th but they are a whopping 26 points off Wimbledon. They leapfrog  Hertford and Sevenoaks who will have both been disappointed at their losses – 25-27 to CS Stags and 12-8 at Brighton respectively. 7th, 8th and 9th remain exactly the same as none of us, Sidcup nor Tring picked up any points so stay on 42, 39 and 34 points respectively. However, it is certainly getting much tighter down below. Brighton’s resurgence continues and sees them up to 10th on 31 points after winning their arm wrestle against the Oaks, where they are joined by CS Stags. The Chiswick-based team earn pride of place for their bonus point victory at Hertford. Having pulled off a shock win at Rochford earlier in the campaign, this is another notable scalp for the Stags and shows that no one apart from the top three sides can rest on their laurels if they do not want to be pulled back towards the relegation battle. The Wild Geese sit 12th on 27th, ahead of Bedford Athletic on 24 and Guildford on 20 after the Surrey team beat Bedford 29-8. 


The “big game” next week is clearly in Essex where 1st play 3rd as Rochford Hundred host Wimbledon. Both Sevenoaks and Hertford will be hoping to get swiftly back on track when they meet at Knole Paddock. Guildford, Brighton and the Wild Geese will also go into their games with more optimism now as they take on sides above them at Sidcup, Tring and hosting us respectively. 

Youth Fundraising Ball – Tickets Available 9am Friday 24 Jan!!

Tickets for the much awaited Youth Fundraising Ball go on sale this Friday from 9am.

The Ball which is the biggest event in the Youth Section social calendar is a great night out but also a key fundraiser – supporting the section delivering quality rugby to over 600 youth members.

This years event will be at The High Rocks Inn on Saturday 21 March 7:30pm – 1:00am.

Tickets are £50pp – including welcome drink, three course meal and entertainment.

Tickets can be reserved by emailing your age group and numbers to sarah@colleyraine.co.uk.

Tickets sell out FAST so in the interest of fair play emails will only be accepted from 9am Friday 24 Jan.

Ladies U11 – Taster Sessions This Sunday

After a very encouraging start for TWRFC Ladies U11s section a second taster session will be held on Sunday 26 Jan aimed at girls in Year 4,5 and 6.

The session is planned from 11:30am – 1:00pm on the 3G pitch at Tunbridge Wells Boys Grammar School, located by St. Johns Sports Centre (TN4 9TX).

The first session,on 12 January, attracted 15 girls and was run by Tammy Samuel, Head Coach of U13s and former England International supported by experienced players from the U13s squad and returning coach Julia Baldock.

The fun session started with a mix of warm-ups, assault course and relay races. From there the girls moved into a game of touch rugby so that the new girls could get used to running forwards and passing backwards.

“It was really fantastic to see so many girls at the session and to watch our more experienced Wells players coaching and encouraging the new girls” said Tammy. “This is just the first step in developing an U11 squad, we have more try out sessions planned and we have experienced coaches lined up to support the girls on their rugby journey”

This Saturday 25th January

Fixtures this Saturday 25th January:

 1st XV – Home to Rochford Hundred RFC – 2pm kick off

2nd XV – Home to Old Alleynians – 2pm kick off (rearranged fixture)

3rd XV – Home to Canterbury 4s– 2pm kick off

 

The lunch this week is a curry lunch so please contact Kathy Skinner if you would like a space.  The sponsor is Town and Country and the Guard of Honour is the under 16s.

 

Last week’s results:

TWRFC 30 – Guernsey Raiders 33

Dartfordians 2s 34 – TWRFC 2s 0

TWRFC Academy 49 – Dartfordians 0

 

Match report – Tunbridge Wells 30 Guernsey Raiders 33

With St Marks suffering the effects of the week’s heavy rainfall, the superb 4G facility at Bennett School became the venue for what was always likely to be a tough challenge for Tunbridge Wells against a powerful Guernsey side. When the teams met in September the Channel Islanders registered a 31-7 win and there was a certain amount of trepidation amongst the Wells faithful given that the visitors had lost 13-19 last week to their nearest rivals Rochford Hundred which dropped them to second spot. Would Wells be the recipients of a reaction and backlash? Ultimately, the answer was yes but only really for the last 25 minutes as Guernsey turned the screw, with Wells having managed to pour more fuel on their fire themselves too by then……

Wells made four changes to the squad that had battled hard at Hertford last week. Carl Straeche started at prop and Agy Eukaliti moved to his favoured flanker position due to the injury to the highly influential Mike Hathaway. Charley Smith, therefore, started at lock whilst fellow forwards Tom Follows and Jake Smith came onto the bench. The latter is a highly promising flanker and an Academy product who was to make his First XV debut. In the backs, Mike Doherty played despite still feeling the after affects of last week’s injury and, with Rich Murray absent through illness, he was paired at centre with Angus Horne. Another Academy product, Horne had impressed in the role temporarily last week and was to stake his claim for a more permanent role with a man of the match display. Richard Webster returned on the wing after missing the last two games and it was great to see firm fan favourite Matt Spicer back on the bench after some time away from the club.

A beautiful, still, clear blue-sky day made for a great backdrop and was to bear witness to a thrilling “try-fest” of a match. Guernsey kicked off and in what was to be a feature throughout the athletic Eukaliti soared high to gather the ball. Wells cleared their lines but the visitors had a clear desire to put width on the ball all the day and this started from the opening minutes. However, when they were halted on halfway Nick Doherty created the turnover before Josh Hawkins made a powerful 15 metre run up the right touch line. The forwards created rapid ruck ball which scrum half Eddie Croft used to free his back line. Horne then made a searing break 35 metres out before finding the instigator of the attack Doherty on his left. He powered on before being hauled to the ground just a few metres short. Again the ball was recycled quickly and two long passes later it found the unlikely figure of tight-head prop Straeche standing alone on the right wing. He gathered the ball before carrying the last defender over with him for his first try at this level. The crowd were delighted as there are few more popular players than Carl in the squad. The connection of boot to ball for Frank Reynolds’ conversion attempt brought a strange sound from the ball and it drifted wide (and it was noticeable that place kickers struggled all day with the balls). Three minutes played and 5-0.

On more than one occasion this season I think it is fair to say that Wells have been slow starters but it was the Channel Islanders who seemed to suffering from this malady this time. A strong Webster carry put the home team back In Guernsey territory and when Croft’s box kick was knocked on it was Hawkins who was on hand to re-gather. Although Reynolds’ clever kick through came to nothing, Guernsey were penalised for offside so the outside half fired a fine touch finder and Wells had an attacking line-out 15 metres out. Hooker Stuart Nicholls found his jumpers well throughout and he connected with Eukaliti on this occasion. A rolling maul was set and started to make headway as several backs joined in. However, just as it splintered and momentum seemed to be lost it was the centre-playing Doherty brother Mike who, supported by Nicholls, was to force his way over wide on the left. The tough conversion was missed but it was now 10-0 on 10 minutes.

And soon two tries were to become three. Nick Doherty, skipper Ryan Taylor-Dennehy and Horne made good ground before Guernsey managed a turnover. However, a thumping James Pancaldi tackle created pressure on the visiting backs who knocked on. Nick Doherty again carried powerfully before recycled ball found its way to Taylor-Dennehy. The full back seems to have rediscovered some of his customary “zip” since the turn of the year and his pace took him clear and deep into Guernsey territory. The cover got to him but not before he slipped the ball to Horne on his left shoulder and centre dived over for the score. Another strange sounding connection saw the conversion missed but it was now 15-0 after just 17 minutes. Spicer replaced Colangelo who had taken a heavy blow to his back.

With all the crowd confined to one side of the pitch there was a cracking atmosphere at the game. A large number of post-lunch attendees who had battled their way through Saturday afternoon traffic from the club stood shoulder to shoulder with a healthy travelling support and it was they that were to cheer next. Tui Tauaika and Eukaliti combined to create a turnover which Spicer fly hacked forward but the bounce took it away from his grasp and the visitors were awarded a penalty. A long touch kick saw a line-out and maul which was halted illegally. The large Guernsey pack chose a second bite at this particular cherry and the Wells forwards could not halt the ensuing maul in time. With the usually reliable Owen Thomas missing the conversion it was now 15-5 after 23 minutes. Worryingly for Wells it was clear that Reynolds was now inconvenienced by a leg injury. It’s testament to the Kent County player that he soldiered on for the rest of the game despite clearly being in significant discomfort.

Guernsey now also seemed to have blown away the cobwebs but it only takes a second for momentum to be lost or gained. Tauaika managed to steal the ball and it was fed to Spicer. He tore down the left wing covering 25 metres in a blink of an eye before he was superbly tackled. However, as he fell to ground he was able to engineer an exquisite pop up pass to the supporting Croft and the scrum half crossed out wide on the left. With Reynolds’ injury clearly incapacitating him it was the try scorer who now assumed place kicking duties but this his effort fell well short. However, remarkable as it might have seemed before kick off, Wells had the 4-try bonus point in the bag after just 27 minutes. 20-5.

A Wells error at the kick-off handed possession back to the visitors via a scrum and the much larger Guernsey pack were starting to demonstrate a clear edge at this set-piece. A hefty drive saw a penalty awarded. A line out followed and although the attacking grey and green maul was halted just short, a powerful pick and go saw a try scored which Thomas converted, to some ironic cheers from the sidelines at the sight of the first successful place kick of the day. 30 minutes played and it was 20-12.

To be fair to the team from St Marks they were playing some lovely, ambitious rugby but it was as much poor discipline and imprecision from the visitors which was proving key, and this was epitomised by an incident on 34 minutes. After Pancaldi had made another fine tackle, Mike Doherty was cleared out illegally some distance away from the ball by visiting prop Jacob Pinkney and he received a yellow card. Crucially, though, Wells missed touch with the penalty and when Guernsey kicked clear, chasing flanker Lewis Hillier earned them a penalty for Wells not releasing.

Before the Guernsey line-out 35 metres from the Wells line, and sensing that frustration and ‘tetchiness’ was setting in, the excellent referee Dominic Bunning called both skippers together to ask them to remind their players of the importance of discipline. The warning was to go unheeded though. After the line-out was overthrown Straeche and Charley Smith combined well to bring the ball clear before a penalty was awarded to Wells. However, the whistle brought a bout of “handbags” that led to two more players heading to the sin bin – Nicholls for the home team and flanker Dom Rice for the visitors.

An attacking line-out saw Tauaika assume throwing in duties and he found Eukaliti (who was having an impressive game). Taylor-Dennehy again made good yards and when he was awarded a penalty 35 metres out he had no hesitation in asking Reynolds to kick for the corner. This he did with such aplomb that when Tauaika connected with Hawkins the maul was formed just 5 metres out. What started as 7 v 6 rapidly became 10 and then 14 as the Wells backs joined and lifted Tauaika over the line for a very much deserved try. Sadly, the conversion again went wide but it was now 25-12 three minutes into added time.

There was still time for one more Guernsey attack during which Straeche received a bang to the head. Perhaps surprisingly when awarded a free-kick 15 metres out the visitors decided to tap and go rather than opt for a scrum and excellent Wells defence held them at bay. Half Time: 25-12.

There was little doubt that Guernsey had yet to play their best rugby. They had shown signs of petulance but this was amidst frustration stemming from a combative and aggressive Wells performance. It is an old rugby truism that “you can only play as well as you are allowed to”. Sadly, for the home team this was to be absolutely the case in the second period…..but unfortunately it was the Channel Islanders who were to dominate and illustrate exactly why they are very much in the hunt for promotion.

And yet the second half started very brightly. Jake Smith temporarily replaced Straeche as Wells kicked off. Guernsey then went through almost 20 phases only for Wells to turn the ball over and clear. Poor discipline (for virtually the last time in the game) saw a penalty to Guernsey reversed in favour of the men in blue and Reynolds found a fine touch inside the opposition 22. Both teams were now back to 15 and Straeche also returned.

Spicer, Eukaliti and Taylor-Dennehy made good initial carries to take Wells to 15 metres out. Patience was key as Wells looked to find space and when the ball was switched back to the left, Horne set off on a pacy run on an outside arc before crossing in the corner to make it a brace of tries for him. Croft’s conversion attempt dropped just short but it was now 30-12 after 48 minutes.

However, this was as good as it was to get for Tunbridge Wells as the “real” Guernsey now stood up to be counted! To be fair the last 30 minutes were completely dominated by the visitors without Wells doing an awful lot wrong. Time and again they attacked the hosts out wide and through the middle and with clear scrum dominance now, the home support quite understandably had an ominous feeling.

On 54 minutes Guernsey had an attacking line out 20 metres from the Wells line. Brave defence kept them at bay but at the expense of an injury to Hawkins who was replaced permanently now by Jake Smith, and the young debutant should be proud of his efforts in what were now very tough circumstances. An attacking Guernsey scrum was halted illegally and when another scrum was set they might have anticipated a penalty try. However, Wells front five were to do better this time and held them at bay. The was only temporary, though, as after a series of drives number eight Doug Horrocks burrowed over under the posts. Thomas converted to make it 30-19 on 59 minutes.

There was little respite now for Wells as the visitors were straight back into the home side’s half. Wells were feeling the brunt of Mr Bunning’s whistle as the penalty count rose inexorably as the pressure began to tell. Another attacking line-out saw a maul drive 20 metres before the ball was lost forward just as the try line beckoned. Home supporters relief was short-lived though as the referee had been playing a penalty advantage and to make matters worse Nick Doherty was sent to the sin bin for the original offence. There are no prizes for guessing what happened next…..a line-out was set 5 metres out and a driving maul surged over the line for the try. With Thomas adding the extra two it had become 30-26 after 64 minutes.

There was one glimmer of hope for Wells on 70 minutes. Mike Doherty did superbly well to rip the ball clear in he tackle before feeding Spicer on half-way. The gap seemed to be there with an open field in front of him but just as he looked like evading the cover a desperate last gasp ankle tap brought him to ground and then he was penalised for holding on. A case of what might have been…..

Despite fierce resistance from the likes of Tauaika and Pancaldi the momentum was all with the visitors now. Just when a ball looked to have been stolen a high tackle penalty was awarded. Yet another attacking line-out was won on the left wing and although the maul was brought down effectively and legally, Guernsey were not to be denied. They picked and drove at the posts sucking in the desperate defenders before cleverly switching the play back to the blind side for left wing Mike Agyei-King to cross. Thomas’ fine touch line conversion made it 30-33 on 72 minutes.

Doherty returned to play at prop replacing Straeche and was accompanied by Follows. Eukaliti was impeded in the air which led to a Wells line out on halfway where Nicholls linked well with Follows. Tauaika took the ball up again but suffered a heavy knock and although Wells tried hard they couldn’t break through. Follows was unlucky when he made a cracking turnover only to see that Guernsey had earned a penalty earlier in the play.

As the game moved into injury time Tauaika eventually had to depart which saw uncontested scrums and Wells down to 14 players. Could Wells hold on to a richly deserved bonus point? The answer was yes and Guernsey showed their professionalism (and a healthy respect for their opponents) by simply maintaining possession and running down the clock.

An exhilarating contest that saw 11 tries and the proverbial “game of two halves”. The Wells players will no doubt be disappointed to have let an 18 point lead slip. However, when they reflect on the game they should bear in mind the quality of the opposition and the adversity they faced in both carrying injuries into the game and then incurring several more on the pitch. They played exciting rugby at times and really should look at this as two points gained more than anything else. They faced up to the challenge with both bravery and skill.

Now it’s over to Russell Shingles and his physio team to do what they can to patch the lads up ahead of the visit of league leaders Rochford Hundred next week. Kick off is 2pm at St Marks.

Squad: Ryan Taylor-Dennehy (Capt); Richard Webster, Angus Horne, Mike Doherty, Harvey Colangelo (Matt Spicer); Frank Reynolds, Eddie Croft; Tui Tauaika, Stuart Nicholls, Carl Straeche (Tom Follows), Charley Smith, Josh Hawkins (Jake Smith), Agy Eukaliti, James Pancaldi, Nick Doherty.

Elsewhere in the League

Rochford Hundred maintained their two point lead over Guernsey at the top of the table with a 29-13 win over Sidcup. They have 75 points, Guernsey are on 73 and Wimbledon remain right on their tails on 70 with a game in hand after a hard-fought 31-40 victory at lowly Bedford Athletic.  Hertford remain 4th on 46 points but will be very disappointed to have only taken a losing bonus point at London Irish Wild Geese who earned a 17-14 win in south-west London. Sevenoaks and Dorking remain in 5th and 6th on 45 on 44 after their game up the road at Knole Paddock was postponed. On 42 points we are now three clear of eight-placed Sidcup on 39. 
Tring will be relieved to have edged a nail-biter at home against Guildford with the bottom team taking a losing bonus point as the game finished 16-14. The winners move on to 34 points in 9th but it is all change in the bottom five.

Wild Geese’s win over Hertford moved them from 12th to 10th on 27 points and they are joined on that mark by Brighton who have moved out of the bottom three for the first time since September after what could prove to be a hugely significant 26-29 win at CS Stags. The Chiswick-based side now fill the first relegation spot with 26 points and Bedford Athletic have dropped from 11th to 13th on 24 points. Guildford are 9 points adrift at the bottom of the ladder on 15. For your reference, the team in 12th in both of the last two campaigns went down with 49 points….#justsaying.


There are lots of top half v bottom half games next week. The three promotion-hunting teams all be expecting to win but it’s down to us (home to Rochford), London Irish Wild Geese (at Guernsey) and Sidcup (away to Wimbledon) to try and upset the apple cart. Brighton v Sevenoaks is an intriguing clash, whilst the bottom sides square off in Surrey when Guildford host Bedford Athletic. 


Graham Withers

This Saturday 18th January

 

 

Fixtures this Saturday 18th January: 

1st XV – Home to Guernsey Raiders RFC – 2pm kick off

1st XV game will now be played at Bennett Memorial School, Culverden Down, TN4 9SH

Kick off will still be at 2pm and entry to the game is £5 (free for under 16s).  There are NO DOGS allowed on the Bennett School site.

2nd XV – Away to Darfordians 2s – 2pm kick off

3rd XV – Away to Cliffe 2s – match postponed

 

The lunch theme this week is “Super 2s” and if you would like a place please contact Kathy Skinner

Guard of Honour is the under 10s

 

Last week’s results:

Hertford 21 – TWRFC 19

TWRFC 3s 14 – Gillingham 2s 15

 

 

Match report – Hertford 21 Tunbridge Wells 19

Tunbridge Wells were on their travels to face a Hertford team who, by their own account, had produced their best performance of the campaign the week before in a narrow 14-8 defeat at table-topping Guernsey. They sat in 4th but just two points ahead of Wells in 7th and although the Hertfordshire side comfortably defeated a depleted Wells team 15-34 at St Marks in September, the pre-match chat was much more about a final kick 33-32 win to them in this fixture at the end of last season. As it was, this game was to be almost as close.

The visitors were able to take the field with just two changes to the side that had got 2020 off to such a good start with a dominant performance against Brighton. Harvey Colangelo stepped up to start on the wing in place of Max Hobbs and this enabled talented Academy product Lucas Scully to return to First XV action from the bench. In the pack it was heartening to see the same starting 8 plus popular prop Carl Straeche amongst the replacements, with Ben Isbell having returned to University.

The gravel-bed nature of the land at the club meant a soft but excellent playing surface on a wide-pitch. There was a very strong wind blowing down the pitch and it was Wells who kicked off playing into this. It was evident from the early exchanges that Hertford are a team who like to play running rugby ball-in-hand and they were to stay loyal to this pattern of play, even with the breeze at their backs.

Wells looked to have made a perfect start when the Hertford clearing kick was charged down but the ball fell kindly for the home side and they were able to clear downfield. Strong carries from the industrious Nick Doherty and ever-willing Josh Hawkins took the visitors back into Hertford territory only for the men from St Marks to be penalised for not releasing in the tackle.

This gave Hertford a fine attacking platform with a line out 35 metres from the try line. Although the intended maul was well sacked, Hertford showed great patience as the ensuing phases moved into double-figures. Outside half Liam Batty made use of a penalty advantage to make a lovely grubber kick that wing Charlie Parkhouse gathered. A quickly recycled ball then saw powerful centre Kyle Lemon crash over for the first of a brace of tries. With a good wide conversion from Batty it was 7-0 after 5 minutes.

The Wells scrum had been much improved last week by the availability of player-coach Aston Croall and it was the same again in Hertfordshire. The first set piece provided good ball off which Mike Doherty (twice) and flanker James Pancaldi made surging drives. When a penalty was awarded outside half Frank Reynolds found a good touch to set up an attacking line out, and when hooker Stuart Nicholls connected with Josh Hawkins a maul was set. Backs poured in to try and help the ball over the line but it splintered and the ball was knocked on. Poor discipline then conceded a penalty and Hertford could clear their lines.

It was the home team’s turn to use a powerful maul now but despite making 25 metres they could not secure the ball and the referee awarded the turnover to the men in white (we were in our away kit!). However, it was Croall who was penalised at the next scrum and Hertford were inside the Wells half again. Good defence kept them at bay though and soon after strong Mike Hathaway, Agy Eukaliti and Colangelo carries saw Wells back on the attack before busy scrum half Eddie Croft was played without the ball 35 metres out in front of the posts.

The wind meant a shot at goal was out of the question so it looked like a kick to the left-hand corner was likely….at least so thought the 250 or so in the crowd and, more importantly, the home players! Instead, Reynolds and skipper Ryan Taylor-Dennehy spotted their chance and tapped and came swiftly to the right. They linked with Hathaway who found Mike Doherty who breezed around the outside defender and crossed from 20 metres. Reynolds expertly manufactured a low, driven, conversion and it was 7-7 after 18 minutes.

From the re-start Nick Doherty again made good yardage before the ball was spun wider. Clever inter-play by Angus Horne released centre Rich Murray but he was bundled into touch. On 22 minutes the younger Doherty did superbly to tidy up ball at the base of a retreating scrum before Eukaliti made a thrusting run. Props Croall and Tui Tuauika were involved in a phase showing good continuity before a knock on saw the ball lost. Sadly, though, a lower-leg injury saw talismanic centre Mike Doherty leave the pitch to be replaced by Scully. Horne moved into outside centre and Murray to the ‘12’ channel.

Whilst it would be fair to say Wells had not taken some chances they had created, it was the home side who were very much in the ascendancy at this stage. It was surprising to see them not use a kicking game to gain territory but they seemed very confident in their passing and running game and it needed important tackles from Taylor-Dennehy, Hathaway and Eukaliti, coupled with some key passes going astray to keep Hertford at bay. They even took a leaf out of the Wells play book with quick ‘tap and go’ options. The attacking momentum was only ended on 33 minutes when a huge Wells scrum earned a penalty.

Just as the visiting supporters thought their team would get to the half time whistle level despite playing into the wind, a momentary loss of concentration in the re-jigged back line saw Hertford score again, much to the frustration of the coaching team. The home team had an attacking scrum 35 metres out and when Batty threw a long-miss pass towards the left it was Parkhouse from the right wing who took the ball in space and the lively winger showed good pace to score under the posts. Batty’s simple conversion made it 14-7 on 39 minutes and there was still time for one more attack that was thwarted by sound defensive work from Colangelo before the half time whistle blew.

Half Time 14-7.

As the players re-emerged for the second period it was immediately evident that influential flanker Hathaway had not been able to shake off the calf injury he had incurred and Charley Smith replaced him. This saw Hawkins move to flanker. The loss of two key men to injury seemed likely to put a major dent in Wells’ aspirations of getting back into the game and when a vibrant Hertford opening spell saw them cross again one could have feared the worst. However, this Wells squad has spirit by the bucket load and it is testament to them that they so very nearly came away with the win.

Nick Doherty gathered and returned the kick off but that was the last time the visitors were to see the ball for three minutes. Excellent controlled play saw drive after drive at the heart of the Wells defence and, despite a crucial last-ditch Croft tackle, Hertford could not be resisted and centre Lemon scored again, with Batty adding the extra two. 21-7 after 43 minutes.

Wells’ response was superb. A scrum penalty on halfway, followed by a long Reynolds touch-find put the visitors just 15 metres out. Nicholls again hit his jumper and although the maul was halted Murray and Taylor-Dennehy made good in-roads. As the ball was switched from the right Reynolds threw a deft pass only to be tackled late. Not only was it late but it was high and there were little in the way of arms involved. Thankfully, there was no lasting damage to the Kent County 10 but a penalty and a yellow card to home flanker Dave Archer were awarded.

Wells were to channel their anger well. Taking the attacking line-out option from the penalty, Nicholls hit Hawkins and a powerful maul saw Nick Doherty gain a thoroughly deserved try to join his now injury-departed brother on the score sheet. The touch line conversion proved too difficult but it was now 21-12 after 50 minutes.

The men from Kent had their tails up now and a raking 60 metre kick from Reynolds saw them back in Hertford territory. Murray and Pancaldi made good carries before Tuauika was hauled down agonisingly short. As the phases reached 15, deliberate interference on Croft as he tried to play the ball saw another penalty and a second yellow card to the men in blue. It did not take a Ph.D in rugby to realise what was to happen next. A scrum option was taken and as Wells moved inexorably forward it was halted illegally bringing the award of a Penalty Try. 56 minutes played and it was now 21-19.

Such was the expansive desire of both sides that I would have wanted very long odds to bet that this would end up being the final score. However, the fact that despite the attacking intent on show, this was, indeed, to be the case, pays testament to the fierce defensive efforts by both teams in the second 40 minutes.

Marauding Hertford flanker Redmond Newberry was correctly made Man of the Match for his influence in this final part of the game. It started when he forced a Wells knock on as they looked to clear a ruck. He then made two powerful runs but he was well  held at bay, before another booming 60 metre Reynolds kick cleared the pressure.

With Hertford restored to 14 and then 15 men they now spent a long period encamped in Wells territory. Several penalties led to several attacking line-outs as a combination of the head-wind making goal kicks difficult, plus the desire to gain a 4 try bonus point, made this the primary option for the hosts. One maul was held up over the line, another was collapsed illegally and then when a powerful counter-ruck seemed to have created a turnover in favour of the visitors the ensuing penalty saw a team warning handed out. It had taken brave covering work earlier by Horne to stop a likely try but surely now it was just a matter of time?

Understandably, another line-out was formed and when it went to ground it was Tuauika who received the ‘team’ yellow on 68 minutes. Straeche now entered the fray at prop with Hawkins sacrificed. Again, though, the next maul was defended well leading up to a Hertford scrum.

A player down they might have been but the Wells pack resisted manfully. As a result, the home side spun the ball wide and after a Lemon charge, they created a three on one overlap. Full back Harry Barker could well have scored himself but he unselfishly shipped the ball on to Parkhouse just 2 metres out. The winger had been one of the stand out players on show but he will want to forget the fumble that saw the ball lost forward. Wells could breathe again….at least they could after yet another 20 metre Nick Doherty carry from a retreating scrum. Simply magnificent and topped off by a 40 metre Reynolds clearance kick.

However, if Wells were hoping for one last chance to score it was not to be. Newberry again carried deep into the visitors territory. A series of attacking scrums were held at bay until Wells created a turnover as the clock edged into injury time. One last shot perhaps? Well no….after just 12 seconds of added time the game was over.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable game, if a bit scrappy at times, and in all fairness Hertford were deserved winners. Wells will regret the 5 minute spell either side of half time that saw 14 points conceded but given the loss of highly influential personnel during the match and the, therefore, relatively callow and inexperienced back line that finished the game this can just as much be seen as a point gained away from home against one of the “benchmark” teams in this division, rather than points dropped. That the only sustained period of Wells dominance (apart from a 5 minute spell early on) was when their opponents had players in the sin bin says a lot. However, what it also illustrates is the tenacity and work ethic of the squad as they held a team dominating territory and possession at bay.

The tough matches come thick and fast for Wells in January and next week they host a Guernsey side who will be smarting after losing the league leadership following a home defeat to Rochford Hundred. Indeed, Rochford who are the new leaders, then come to St Marks the week after next…..


Kick off v Guernsey is 2pm.


Squad: Ryan Taylor-Dennehy (Capt); Angus Horne, Rich Murray, Mike Doherty (Lucas Scully), Harvey Colangelo; Frank Reynolds, Eddie Croft; Tui Tauaika (Carl Straeche), Stuart Nicholls, Aston Croall, Agy Eukaliti, Josh Hawkins, James Pancaldi, Mike Hathaway (Charley Smith), Nick Doherty.

Elsewhere in the League

Rochford Hundred’s highly impressive 13-19 win at Guernsey takes them top after the two leaders clashed in the Channel Islands. Coming from 3-0 down the Essex team went clear in the second half and Guernsey only secured what might prove an important losing bonus point with the last play of the game. The winners now have 70 points, with Guernsey next on 68 and Wimbledon third on 65 after beating Tring 36-12. They have a game in hand still, which is the one at St Marks (this has now been re-scheduled for 14th March). The gap is 20 points to Sevenoaks on 45 who move ahead of Hertford on points difference after a hard-fought 15-26 bonus point win over bottom team Guildford. Dorking beat CS Stags 1863 28-14 to stay 6th on 44 ahead of us on 40 points. Sidcup are one point back after they beat Bedford Athletic 20-7. 


The gap is then 9 points back to Tring who sit 9th on 30, ahead of CS Stags, Bedford Athletic (both on 24) and London Irish Wild Geese  on 23 points, who only picked up a losing bonus point in their crunch clash at Brighton. The Seasiders’ 22-20 win enables them to stay in touch with the teams above them on 22. Guildford are 8 points adrift in 14th.
Next week’s stand out games see Rochford looking to cement top spot at home to Sidcup whilst we have the unenviable task of dealing with Guernsey’s quest for a positive reaction! 4th take on 6th as Sevenoaks host Dorking, whilst Brighton continue to have their relegation “fate” in their own hands as they travel to CS Stags. 


Graham Withers

Youth Fundraising Ball – Hold The Date!

“TWRFC are delighted to announce Saturday 21 March is THE date of the Youth Fundraising Ball. Start talking to your mates, coaches, fellow parents and join us for this infamous event, all profits raised will go to support your club. More details on venue and how to book tickets to follow soon….”