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….”

Colts Snatch Last Minute Win

With only one competitive game this season, against Bethany School, the TWRFC Colts were keen to get some playing time under their belts with some tough Kent Cup games looming. Wells’ old friends Crowborough offered that opportunity, but with Crowborough sitting third in the Sussex Youth Championship, after some impressive early season wins, had Wells bitten more than they could chew?

Before kick-off both sides came together to remember Steve Davy who sadly passed away before Christmas. Steve and his family were well known to both clubs with his son having represented both sides over recent years and was playing on the day for Crowborough.

Wells started the stronger of the sides with a hard fought 20 mins with play switching between both sides. But, half way through the first half after a number of pick and goes on the 5 meter line Wells were awarded a penalty for offside by Crowborough. With the Wells scrum dominant they chose to scrummage, with a number 8 pickup from the base and an early pick and go the ball was driven over the try line by Will Hawksfield for his first try for the Colts. Ed Shepherdson converted to take the score to 0-7.

Crowborough mounted a counter attack and a period of sustained pressure saw them disrupt Wells at the breakdown. Wells rode the pressure well but eventually over committed to the breakdown on the 22 leaving gaps out wide which Crowborough spotted and ran in a try under the posts. With the conversion that followed saw the half end at 7-7.

For the second half Crowborough started the stronger of the two teams with them taking advantage of their experience having played together for a number of years. Some fantastic defence work was needed just to keep Crowborough out. With only a couple of minutes to go Wells were awarded a penalty on the 5 meter line under the posts. “Kick the points” was the cry from the touch line but with 13 forwards on the pitch they had other ideas and went for the push over try under the posts. It was a big shove and took some defending from Crowborough on their line. Wells scum-half Innis Woodhouse spotted an opportunity out wide and with a fabulous flat pass by Ed Shepherdson to Cameron Keys out wide, the try was scored in the corner with 30 seconds to go, final score 7-12.

This was a terrific effort from all concerned and the future for Tunbridge Wells Colts is looking good.

Respect: Both squads pause to remember Steve Davy

Ladies Section Announce U11 Squad

TWRFC Ladies section is starting the new decade with plans to expand their player base. The Ladies section already have successful and established U13, U15 & U18 squads and work closely with Sevenoaks RFC in encouraging girls into Rugby.

January will see the launch of a new U11s squad for girls aged 8-11 (school years 4-6) at the club with plans to initiate a Ladies senior squad later in the season.

“The Ladies section  has had great success with our existing age groups with over sixty registered players – playing in Kent League and Cup competitions. We have girls playing for Kent at county level and players who have gone on to represent Harlequins, Cambridge in the Varsity game and England” said Simon Parsons, Director of Ladies Rugby. “As a club, we want to build on that success and introduce an U11’s squad so we can engage girls earlier in their rugby journey. We will also be introducing a Senior squad which will mean TWRFC can offer a full range of rugby and encourage more girls to get into the game and have a clear progression in rugby as part of the #thisgirlcan campaign.”

Tammy Samuel, Ladies U13 Head Coach and former England International added; “No experience is required. If you were inspired by the recent World Cup or just want to come and give rugby a go at a friendly club, come and join us – anyone is welcome. It’s all about having fun and experiencing the exciting sport of Rugby.”

Try out sessions for the new U11s squad will be held at TWRFC, St Marks Recreation Ground from 10am to 11:30am on Sunday 12 and Sunday 26 January.

Match Report – Tunbridge Wells 38 Brighton 5

Tunbridge Wells started this season’s London South East Premier League with a flourish but 2019 ended as something of a damp squib with two disappointing (and heavy) defeats in December. Brighton might well have arrived at St Marks in a relegation spot at 13th but they were just 16 points behind the hosts in 7th and had showed much-improved form in the past few games. With Wells’ next three games being against teams in the top four this was a game that they could ill-afford to lose.

The match day squad featured four changes from the last game at Dorking and, in particular, featured the very welcome return from long-term injury of Rich Murray and the hugely influential Mike Hathaway. Player-Coach Aston Croall came in at prop for his first game since impressing against Sevenoaks and flanker James Pancaldi was also back after his man of the match effort in defeat at Sidcup. This saw something of a reshuffle in the starting XV. Josh Hawkins moved into the second row as Charley Smith went to the bench, to be joined by Ben Isbell as Pancaldi and Hathaway edged ahead of them in the back row; in the backs skipper Ryan Taylor-Dennehy returned to his customary full-back spot as Murray replaced him at centre and Angus Horne had his first start on the right wing.

Bright sunshine and a blue sky greeted the teams and the playing surface had recovered well. Tunbridge Wells kicked off playing down the slope with an unusual north-westerly breeze behind them. A switch of direction that was dealt with by Brighton via a boxed clearance kick However, Taylor-Dennehy seemed back to something approaching his best form throughout and he returned the ball into the visitors half before connecting with Horne who made ground.

It needed a fine break by Brighton skipper David McIlwaine to relieve early pressure as the outside half took the ball back towards the halfway line before his pass to his supporting runners went into touch. When the Wells line-out was over thrown Brighton had a scrum put in. Wells were, though, to have a significant edge at the set scrum all game with Tui Tauaika strong and Croall exerting huge pressure from the tight-head position. Agy Eukaliti and Hathaway took the ball on before Reynolds made an excellent break, only for his final pass to go astray.

Wells was soon back on the attack with a superb Nick Doherty charge making 25 metres before the supporting Hathaway was hauled to ground with the ball. A try scoring opportunity was still on offer but when the ball went wide to the right the Brighton defence was up quickly exerting pressure and forcing a knock on. The visitors clearing kick was well dealt with by scrum half Eddie Croft who linked with Taylor-Dennehy and Mike Doherty before Reynolds made further in-roads with ball in hand. However, McIlwaine was able to steal the ball at the ruck and was awarded a penalty, enabling his team to clear their lines.

Isbell was now on as temporary blood replacement for Nicholls. Wells were very much in charge at the stage and after another series of phase play they were awarded a penalty which Reynolds converted from 30 metres in front of the posts. 3–0 after 16 minutes.

The tide was starting to turn in Brighton’s favour (despite one outrageous Croall pass between his legs!) as Wells started to fall foul of the referee. Discipline issues saw a rapid series of penalties in favour of the visitors so that after 25 minutes the count was 5-1 in favour of the men from Sussex. Imprecision was hurting them, though, and one misdirected penalty kick to touch simply gave Reynolds the opportunity to fire a wind-assisted drop out deep into Brighton territory. Nick Doherty was clearly enjoying have his long-standing back row colleague Hathaway back, and they combined again before a fine Taylor-Dennehy touch kick took Wells into the visitors 22. Hawkins seemed to have stolen the ball legitimately at the next breakdown but was (perhaps) harshly penalised and Brighton received another penalty to add to their collection……. 

This led to another period of Brighton being encamped in the home half. An attacking line-out produced a dangerous maul that appeared to be moving inexorably towards the Wells line before it splintered and went to ground. Unfortunately, Mr Lamb (who was to have a very good game) deemed it to have been halted illegally and another penalty awarded. The line-out was knocked on to Wells’ relief, and the home front row then once again put their opponents under pressure and were awarded a clearing penalty.

Neither side’s line-out worked particularly efficiently in the first half but it was Brighton who had the lion’s share of possession in the second quarter and they looked to use an expansive game to exploit this. The Wells defence was proving robust though, with the likes of Eukaliti and Croall making influential tackles in wide channels. After several minutes of attacking play it was Hathaway who secured a key turnover and Taylor-Dennehy’s kick took Wells back into their opponents half.

The game was very open at this stage and this suits the way Wells want to play. An excellent Pancaldi offload put Hathaway surging into space and he burst through a tackle as he made 25 metres. Brighton’s scrambling defence prevented him from finding the supporting players he had on either side, but when he was eventually dragged to ground he was just 10 metres short. Croft was able to get quick ball to his backs and Mike Doherty’s eye for a miss-pass saw him find winger Horne who crossed for his first try at this level. With Reynolds’ straight-forward conversion it was now 10-0 on 35 minutes.

The try-scorer was soon back in the thick of the action when he chased up his own kick and delivered a thumping tackle that belied his physical stature. It was certainly well received by the 150 or so predominantly home supporters! The last few minutes of the half saw Max Hobbs and Tauaika link well in attack and some further impressive Eukaliti, Pancaldi and Hawkins defensive work as Wells secured a hard-earned but deserved half-time lead. 10-0.

On returning to the field for the second period Brighton would have been justifiably optimistic of turning matters around with the advantage of the slope and breeze. However, it is something of a truism that in recent years Wells seem to have played their best rugby playing up the hill towards the clubhouse and this was to be the case once again. In fact, the second half was to witness as good a 40 minutes of rugby as the boys from St Marks have produced all season.

Wells had a lot of good field position in the first half but, thwarted by robust Brighton defence and poor discipline, they had struggled to convert this into points. There was no doubt that their supporters would have liked to see an early score in the second half to settle any anxieties and they were to get their wish.

Reynolds was having a huge influence on the game and when another of his long territory-gaining kicks was only partially cleared, the home side had an early attacking line-out 35 metres out. Tauaika hit Hawkins before the prop (come ‘thrower-in’) peeled around the tail and into the heart of the Brighton midfield defence. Reynolds then put centre Mike Doherty into the sort of midfield gap the ‘try machine’ thrives on. Bursting clear from 30 metres he showed too much power and pace for the defenders before diving over for a try that Reynolds converted with aplomb. 43 minutes played and it was now 17-0.

From the re-start number eight Doherty took responsibility for the clearance kick. McIlwaine tried to launch another attack for the visitors but after his initial break the follow up pass went forward and Wells had a scrum 10 metres inside their own half. The scrum set-piece was much improved by the presence of Croall and Brighton were penalised again for collapsing.

This gave Wells a fine attacking platform that they were to exploit to its full potential. Hawkins again soared high to secure the line-out before a powerful maul was set. This made 20 metres before the ball found Horne coming off his wing for an incisive run that ended with him slipping a lovely pass to the supporting Murray, for the ever-popular centre to mark his first game back with a try. That it was virtually under the posts made the score even better as Reynolds popped over the extra two. 24-0 on 48 minutes.

Although there was still over half an hour to play this felt like the decisive moment in the game. From the kick-off Eukaliti was able to secure the ball with ease and Wells were soon back in the Brighton half. Tauaika and Hathaway again drove powerfully forward before Nicholls received more running repairs. The hooker has become an integral part of the starting line-up this season and all were relieved to see him continue.

It was, therefore, somewhat against the run of play when Brighton eventually troubled the scorers. A penalty saw an attacking line- out and after McIlwhinie’s initial break, full-back Maxx Morris showed exquisite footwork and good pace to cross for an unconverted try. 24-5 after 55 minutes.

To be fair, though, this was the only time the visitors were to threaten the Wells line until deep into injury time. It was the home team who resumed control and then further extended their lead. After a Brighton forward pass, Wells again secured their own solid scrum ball and this enabled a typical Nick Doherty power-packed run. He linked with Reynolds who found the ever-eager Croft. When the ball was released from the ruck to Reynolds again, the Kent County 10 made a thrusting run breaking two tackles before a sublime offload to Hathaway who became the second returning player to cross the whitewash. It was fitting that it was these two players who combined for the bonus point try as on a day of excellent individual performances these were arguably the stand-out pair. Reynolds added the extra two to complete a satisfying 100% kicking day too. After 61 minutes this made it 31-5.

Harvey Colangelo replaced Murray (which saw the versatile Horne move to outside centre) and Charley Smith came on for Hawkins in the second row. Another Nick Doherty run took play away from the Wells line before a raking Reynolds clearance kick made 40 metres. Hathaway should have been mightily pleased with his comeback game and now made way for Isbell. 

Brighton, to their credit, were still trying to create opportunities but Wells now had their measure and even a seemingly clever kick through was comfortably dealt with by Isbell. Indeed, this put Wells back on the front foot as Taylor-Dennehy burst forward before finding Tauaika. As Wells tried to go wide a Brighton defender knocked the ball forward and as this was correctly deemed deliberate, the visitors were now temporarily down to 14 men as a yellow card was shown.

Wells opted for the attacking scrum and a slick backs move almost saw Horne get outside his opposite man to put Hobbs into space on the left. Fine continuity saw the ball make its way to Nicholls on the right-wing and he beat two men before finding Colangelo with an inside pass. Just as the replacement looked like he might get over desperate defence thwarted him. However, it was at the expense of a penalty 5 metres out and with such scrum dominance there was no surprise when Taylor-Dennehy opted for the set piece. There was a certain inevitability about the outcome as the men in blue moved towards the Brighton line and a deliberate collapse gave the referee little option but to award a Penalty Try. 38-5 after 76 minutes.

As the game moved into injury time Brighton looked likely to cross in the right corner but a superb Mike Doherty and Colangelo combined tackle thwarted them in front of the eagle-eyed linesman. Hawkins returned for Nicholls and Murray replaced a limping Taylor-Dennehy but even though replacement Smith received a yellow card for illegally halting a rolling maul, Wells were determined to prevent any further breaches and they managed this until a Reynolds kick to touch brought the final whistle. 

With such a tough run of games ahead of them this month, this could prove to be a crucial bonus-point win. It will, however, be the manner of this win, as much as anything else, that will undoubtedly please Head Coach Simon Whatling. The return from injury of important players and a much stronger set-piece will be other encouraging elements to take into this week’s preparation for the task away next week at 4th placed Hertford. Kick off is 2pm.

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

Elsewhere in the League
Guernsey continue at the top of the table, but only just, after leaving it late to win a hard-fought game 14-8 against Wells’ opponents next week Hertford. Rochford Hundred’s 59-7 bonus point win over Bedford Athletic means they are now just one point (67 v 66) behind the Channel Islanders. Despite having a game in hand. Wimbledon are now 6 points back in third after Sevenoaks’ superb 24-16 bonus point win over them at Knole Paddock. This keeps Sevenoaks in fifth place on 40 points, one behind 4th placed Hertford, and one ahead of Dorking (who came from 26-8 behind to win 26-30 at London Irish Wild Geese) and us on 39 points. Sidcup won 22-34 at Tring to stay 8th on 35 points ahead of the team they beat on 30.

It is getting very tight in the relegation places with the 5 remaining teams covered by 10 points, and with bottom side Guildford showing some real fight as epitomised by a 10-10 draw at CS Stags 1863. Stags are 10th on 24, ahead of Bedford Athletic (on points difference), Wild Geese on 22, Brighton on 18 and Guildford on 14. 

Next week’s stand out games are at the top and the bottom. It doesn’t get much bigger than when first play second as Guernsey host Rochford Hundred, whilst at the bottom Brighton v London Irish Wild Geese could also prove highly significant. Wimbledon will be looking to bounce back at home to Tring.

Graham Withers

100 Club: December Draw

The results of the December 100 club draw are as follows:
1st prize no, 76 Tom Doubell £250.
2nd prize no.65 Rob Greig £100.
3rd prize no.91 James Bailey £50.
If anyone is interested in joining the 100 Club please contact Alan Skinner.  The more members there are the bigger the prize pot is!