Week 2 video challenge: World Rugby approves law trials to further injury prevention

Well done to those of you who participated in the various passing video challenges. I know a few are still to publish and I’ll add there here as they are shared…

This week – we’re setting a new challenge which should help get us all ready for the world-rugby global law trials, one of which is to be trialed in England next season. Specifically the permitted forward pass. For more details – read the World rugby announcement below. Teams will be allowed once pass per phase, provided the receiving player catches it in the 22 (some age grade variations apply).

In the video below, Martin provides a little guidance on how to do this – as well as setting the video challenge.

World Rugby approves law trials to further injury prevention

Injury-prevention focused law change has taken another significant step forward with World Rugby’s Executive Committee approving a package of law amendments for trial in London.

Following a comprehensive evaluation by the expert Law Review Group, the Committee approved six law trial proposals submitted by unions and developed at the ground-breaking player welfare and laws symposium in Marcoussis, Paris, in March. 

The package of trials will be rolled out as designated closed trials in competitions around the world and if successful, would be recommended for global trial within the next Rugby World Cup cycle, meaning Rugby World Cup 2023 could be the first global showpiece to feature law amendments fully aimed at reducing injury risk. Full announcement ,details of the law trials (including impact on Reg 15)

YOUTH BALL – Postponed

As I relayed in my note earlier in the week it is with great regret that we cancelled the Youth Ball that was planned for this weekend. I know that many of you were really looking forward to getting together and having a good time with friends from the club.

Having to cancel the event is also a financial blow for the club, The youth ball is our biggest event of the year and our largest fundraiser! In fact it was destined to have over 200 people attending on the night.

We have reserved a couple of dates at the High Rocks in September and October for the bigger and better (postponed) event to happen and we hope you will be able to join us then.

In the meantime the club is sat on your monies and I wanted to give you three options with regard to the £50 per head you have paid:

  • roll over your monies to the new date of the event in the Autumn (if you can’t make the new date further down the line we can offer a refund then);
  • request a refund of the monies to your account now;
  • or to donate the monies to the club.

I will ask our organiser and all round superstar volunteer Sarah Raine to reach out to the table captains and ask for your replies.

In the meantime thank you for your continued support for the club and hopefully see you back at St Mark’s soon.


is is a real shame as it our biggest event of the year and our largest fundraiser!

100 Club: March BIG Draw

The winner of the big £1000 March 100 club draw is number 56 Julian Clements.
If anyone is interested in joining the 100 Club please contact Alan Skinner.  The more members there are the bigger the prize pot is!


Important message for all club members and visitors

Dear Members and Visitors,

The Government and the RFU have now issued more prescriptive guidance on how we should all be reacting to the Coronavirus (links below). In response to this guidance we have made the following decisions:

Senior Rugby

  • All training and matches postponed until 14th April. Your Head coach or Director of Rugby will be in touch shorty with suggested individual training plans.
  • We will provide an update on the TWRFC Countryside 7’s tournament in the next few days.

Youth and Mini Rugby

  • All youth training and matches postponed until 14th April.
  • The Head coach of your age group will advise you when (or if) we are able to recommence training. They may also set you individual rugby goals or challenges to keep you entertained.
  • We are conscious that there are a number of outgoing tours and that these are at risk of being impacted. Each tour organiser is working to understand the impact and will communicate when they have any information.

Social gatherings

The Government has advised to avoid social contact, hence……

  • The Youth Ball that is planned for next weekend will be postponed. Further details on the postponement will follow tomorrow.
  • The End of Season awards dinner will be postponed to the beginning of next season.
  • The Clubhouse will be closed until further notice.

This is very disappointing, but hopefully in the circumstances, entirely understandable news. Let’s hope the virus is short lived and less impactful than the Government is planning for. Rugby is important but the health of the nation and our friends/family is way more important. 

If anyone in our community needs any help or assistance over the coming weeks or months then please do get in touch with me or any member of the club and let us know. We know we are a valuable part of our local community and times like this we would will stand tall to support you. #OneTWRFC.

Stay safe and healthy.


Mike Rigby

Match Report: Tunbridge Wells vs. Wimbledon

TUNBRIDGE WELLS RFC 1st XV.        10.
WIMBLEDON RFC 1st XV.    40.

This was a rearranged game from earlier in the season which was switched from St Marks to Bennett Memorial School’s AGP after a pitch inspection by the referee and the two captains at 1 00 pm.
Wells found themselves without successful right wing Max Hobbs after three minutes with Eddie Croft replacing him on the wing and Charlie Rigby coming off the bench to play at scrum half.
These changes can be added to changes in the front row and back row from the team who last week played so well against CS 1863.

The first few minutes of the half set the pattern for the next 40 minutes with the visitors in 3rd place in the league demonstrating almost complete scrum dominance and the Wells- currently 7th showing that they had some dangerous backs. With Wimbledon not finding their touches adding to the ball available for Wells to counter attack from deep.
The Don’s were first on the scoresheet after 13 minutes when an electric break from scrum half Ben Newman saw centre Jack Reville in under the posts for James Moffat to convert. 0-7.
The Don’s were a man down on 15 mins as No 8 Chris York was yellow carded for an offence on the floor. Wells enjoyed plentiful possession and were unlucky not to score after a brilliant handling move initiated by the Doherty brothers carried on by Ryan Taylor Dennehy and involving 10 players in all. The home side did not have to wait long though as on 24 minutes the improbable figure of the Wells hooker Stuart Nicholls popped up on the right wing to score an unconverted try 5-7.
As the half approached it’s end Mike Hathaway made a great break up the middle only for the ball to be spilled, Ben Whales was yellow carded and then a Don’s player followed him for a head high tackle on Taylor Dennehy which could have been more.
Wells continued to attack and Matt Spicer was adjudged held up in the tackle over the Don’s line on 43 minutes before Wells got the ball wide again on the right to Eddie Croft who got the ball down for an unconverted try and a Wells halftime lead of 10-7.

If Wimbledon were to win and keep pressure on the top two sides their game needed to be tightened and they needed to be more accurate with their kicking in the second half.
Sadly for Wells their second half form was much better with more aggressive defence and if possible even more scrum dominance. Nick Doherty was off to be replaced by Josh Hawkins within a minute of the restart and Don’s regained the lead on 44 minutes as Reville scored his second after a switch in midfield to score under the posts with Moffatt adding the extras 10-14.
During the first 20 minutes of the half Wells could retain little possession as they conceded a number of scrum penalties. On 50 minutes impressive Don’s 6 Kane Albani broke up the middle  and fed No 4 Jack Cooke for try 3 which was unconverted 10-19.

In the last 20 minutes Wells struggled in both the scrum and in accuracy at the line out as the Don’s squeezed the life out of the home side with further tries from a high possession rate from 15 Blane Wilson again through the middle and under the posts on 62 minutes 10-26, by effective hooker Ugo Ogodulunwa on 78 mins 10-33 and by probably Man of the Match Kane Alboni on 83 minutes and Moffatt adding his 5th conversion. To make the final score 10-40.

Wells had a good first half but could not live with the aggressive defence and set piece mastery of the visitors in the second half. They will have to bring a full 80 minutes of precision and a rethink on scrum technique before the replay in South London in a few weeks time depending on whether the London and SE Premier season is still running.

Roger Clarke.

“Friday Night Lights” sees Wells win well…..


With the wettest winter on record meaning that St Marks is better suited to water polo than rugby at present, Tunbridge Wells were relieved to be able to use the all-weather pitch at Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys for their re-arranged league match against CS Stags 1863. Wells knew that one more win would see them mathematically safe in the London & South East Premier League, whilst their Chiswick-based opponents are very much in the mire at the bottom.

A very healthy crowd took advantage of Wells’ first game under the eponymous “Friday Night Lights”. Wells made four player changes to the squad that drew with Sevenoaks, together with several positional changes. The most significant one saw skipper Ryan Taylor-Dennehy move from full back to outside half, where he was to have a mightily impressive game. This also saw the return of the ever-popular Ollie Allman at 15, whilst Matt Spicer came in on the left wing enabling Richard Webster to move to outside centre. In the forwards, Aston Croall came back in to shore up the scrum at prop with Tui Tauaika moving to hooker. On the bench Josh Hawkins replaced Charley Smith.

Wells kicked off and and although they conceded an early penalty, when a powerful counter-maul turned the ball over following a line-out it put them on the attack. Strong scrummaging from Croall, Tauaika and Cral Straeche gave Wells a solid platform throughout and scrum half Eddie Croft and Taylor-Dennehy were able to being Max Hobbs in off his right wing for an initial incursion into Stags territory. The outside-half then made a further 30 metre break before being hauled down just 5 metres short. Another good scrum saw led to an offside penalty and with their confidence up the pack were asked to set another scrum. A big surge followed and the referee has no option but to award the Penalty Try as Stags wheeled the set-piece. 7-0 after 5 minutes.

The visitors now had what was to prove to be one of their best phases of play, such was Wells’ ascendancy throughout, but tine and again a hugely competitive and coherent defensive effort thwarted Stags. Webster and fellow centre Mike Doherty made big hits and closed space with impressive line-speed characterising a fine team performance in defence. Eventually Stags were forced to try a speculative kick which was superbly gathered by Taylor-Dennehy. He was clearly taken in the air but the un-sighted referee missed this, much to the derision of club stalwart Fran Colangelo….(I am not happy with that” said the irate Anglo-Italian) awarding just a scrum. A fine Allman clearance kick relived the pressure though.

If the centres were spearheading the back-line’s defence it was the flankers Mike Hathaway and Agy Eukaliti who were leading a powerful forward display. The latter, in particular, has been exceptional since the return of Ben Whale (more of him to come) has enabled him to move into the back row. Wells will be disappointed that their apparent edge at the breakdown often found dis-favour with the match official and it was after two successive penalties that Stags finally managed to engineer a clear break, only for an excellent last-ditch Allman tackle to avert the trouble.

On 18 minutes Wells extend their lead. It came from a Stags scrum just inside their half but when the home pack pushed them back, the pressure created untidy ball and as it was shipped wide Webster saw his opportunity to intercept the ball and gallop clear from 40 metres. Croft’s conversion slipped wide but it was now 12-0.

One facet of their game that Wells won’t have been pleased with was their work at re-starts as Stags managed to secure their own kick on more than one occasion. This was the case now but a superb Whale tackle and turnover saw the hosts awarded a penalty. Tauaika found lock Duncan Hales (a seriously good mid-season signing) but the ball was lost and hacked through. The nature of the 3g pitch is that balls do at least bounce consistently and Hobbs did very well to get back and gather the ball. Croft’s excellent 35 metre kick then took play back into the visitor’s half. Soon after, Mike Doherty charged down a clearance kick but the ball was knocked on as a try looked possible.

Stags finally secured a sustained foothold in the Wells’ half after 25 minutes. For five minutes they controlled ball and territory despite robust defence and after two more breakdown penalties had an attacking line-out 15 metres away out. However, the ball in was not straight and although Allman’s clearance kick from the ensuing scrum was charged down, this led to a line-out that saw Whale taken in the air and a relieving penalty awarded.

Wells were, as ever, trying to play ambitious “ball in hand” rugby, and this did lead to some handling errors. However, the players should be well aware that they have the support of the Wells’ faithful in this exciting style. The artificial service certainly helps with this approach as it leads to a quicker pace of game. It also makes it more physical and with the boys from St Marks winning most of the major collisions this also suited their style of play.

Excellent attacking play and continuity following a fine 20 metre break by Tauaika took Wells deep into Stags territory. With the effervescent Whale, Nick Doherty and Taylor-Dennehy prominent the visitors did well to halt this at the expense of an attacking scrum. Indeed, they did well again when they were able to bundle the boys in blue into touch from this, despite the deftest of Croft passes to Webster.

The home side were to spend most of the last 10 minutes inside their opponents half. They could easily have got frustrated as firstly a 12-man driving maul went to ground as a try beckoned (resulting in a turnover) and then a strong Spicer carry created another opportunity only for the ball to be spilt. Their persistence and patience was to be rewarded though as the clock ticked into injury time. Another powerful Tauaika drive put them on the front foot. The forwards secured quick ball and the most exquisite of delayed passes by Taylor-Dennehy served to put Webster clear again from 20 metres to bag his brace of tries. A superb score from start to finish, and although it was to go unconverted, a half-time score line of 17-0 was a more accurate reflection of the opening 40 minutes.

As the second-half got underway the contented “buzz” of conversation amongst supporters agreed that what Wells did not want to do was give their opponents any encouragement regarding a come-back and to this end it was imperative that they did not concede first. It was, therefore, very heartening when Wells avoided just that scenario despite the opening 5 minutes of play taking place deep in home territory. A line-out penalty saw Stags attempt to cross the line, firstly via a rolling maul and then by more forward drives.Another penalty saw a 5m line-out to the visitors but a superb counter-drive forced then out of play. With the throw-in adjudged not straight Stags were still on the front foot with a scrum but despite a good carry in the centres the ball was lost forward and Wells were finally able to clear their lines.

On 53 minutes the visitors were awarded a scrum penalty which produced an attacking line-out 35 metres form the try line. With their attempts to dominate Wells up-front in the tight phase proving fruitless, Stags now opted to spin the ball though the backs. However, when a wide pass was lost forward it was gathered by Taylor-Dennehy who made 40 metres as the cover started to close. He might well have made the line himself but when you have the electric pace of Hobbs next to you he took the pragmatic and sensible option of feeding him the ball to cover the final 30 metres. With Croft being replaced at scrum half by Charlie Rigby it was Allman who assumed kicking duties. His kick also slipped wide but with the bonus point secured it was now 22-0.

Wells continued to smother all that Stags could throw at them and then on 55 minutes a fifth try surely secured the win. And what a superb individual effort it was. From a scrum 30 metres from our own line, Taylor-Dennehy found Mike Doherty who had taken a sumptuous running line easing him into clear space with just the full back ahead of him. Anyone that has been following the club over the past 10 years knows that there is very rarely more than one outcome when this situation occurs and it was just the same now. A step in, a step out and the full back left floundering as Doherty strode majestically away for the try under the posts. This made Allman’s conversion a formality. 29-0.

On the hour Wells lost Spicer to the sin-bin when an attempted interception (with 70 metres of clear “astro-turf” ahead of him) was adjudged to be a deliberate knock-on (…… in reality it was just Matt’s handsEmoji). However, Stags now looked a beaten team with the unrelenting home defence proving too much. James Pancaldi repleced Eukailiti after another terrific stint, and with his arrival the defensive mastery was only lilkely to increase!

Despite being a man down it was Wells who were to score next. It should, perhaps, have come as a result of a superb individual Hathaway break when the athletic flanker carried for 40 metres. Surely, all he had to do was to pop the ball to the supporting Hobbs on his right shoulder? Instead the ball went inside and the chance was lost…..However, I shall fully accept that this is a much easier game from the touchline, pen and reporting pad in hand!

Stags’ reprieve was to be a fleeting one though. Josh Hawkins replaced Nick Doherty at the Wells attacking scrum, with Whale moving to number eight. And from that scrum Rigby found Mike Doherty standing in the outside-half channel and the prolific try “predator” stepped through the defence again for his second score of the game. Allman added the conversion to make it 36-0 after 68 minutes.

It looked like Wells had scored an even more spectacular try than the excellent efforts already witnessed when from the kick-off (my) man of the match Taylor-Dennehy broke free again before linking with Hobbs who put Allman away for a 20 metre run in. Sadly, the final pass was forward.

The final ten minutes got a little fractured and scrappy as frustrations started to seep to the surface (and I am sure that it was simply a coincidence that this was after Messrs Rigby and Hawkins arrived on the pitch…..lol?). Ben Whale typified his efforts all evening with another steal and run but the game was now over and the Wells’ players, management and supporters could look forward to the rest of their weekend with 5 league points safely deposited and a sense of satisfaction in a job well done. They could also reflect on the club’s first clean sheet since an 85-0 victory over Dover in April 2017 prior to the play-off win that secured the position in this league. Quite apt, as this victory confirms Level Five league rugby again for 2020/21.

Squad: Ollie Allman; Max Hobbs, Richard Webster, Mike Doherty, Matt Spicer; Ryan Taylor-Dennehy (Capt), Eddie Croft (Charlie Rigby); Aston Croall, Tui Tauaika, Carl Straeche, Duncan Hales, Ben Whale, Agy Eukaliti (James Pancaldi), Mike Hathaway, Nick Doherty (Josh Hawkins).

Elsewhere in the League
Just two other re-arranged games played this weekend.

Sevenoaks managed to jump back above us into sixth with a 24-22 win over Dorking. They have 55 points to our 54 but 5th placed Dorking are only 6 points ahead on 60 (having lost at home to bottom-placed Guildford last week) and 4th placed Hertford on 63 must also be within our possible reach given we have two games in hand on both sides?

One of these games, though, is against third-placed Wimbledon next Saturday and they maintained the pressure on the top two with a 22-25 win at Brighton. They are on 91 points which means they are 7 points behind Guernsey and Rochford Hundred who both have 98. It is getting very tight at the bottom though as whilst Brighton’s form since Christmas should see them safe it still remains any three form five for the clubs placed 10th-14th. I intend to do a more in-depth study of this next weekend.

Graham Withers

1XV Game Moves to Friday

This weeks 1XV fixture against CS Stags will take place on Friday 6th March at the Boys Grammar 3G pitch – KO 20:15

Location: By the Tunbridge Wells Sports Centre, St Johns Road, TN4 9TX

Parking: Please park in the Tunbridge Wells Boys Grammar School carpark which is next door to the Sports Centre.

Countryside Kent 7s at TWRFC 2020

Tunbridge Wells RFC will be hosting their 9th annual Kent Sevens (in conjunction with the National  Sevens Series) on Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th April, 2020.

With Whiting & Hammond moving on to support the club via different avenues, we are delighted to announce new headline sponsors in the shape of Countryside Properties. The new sponsors have an outstanding reputation as a UK house-building and urban generation company, operating predominantly in London and the South East of England, and are well established in the local area.

Saturday will see the Men’s Open and Social events and the Ladies competition, whilst Sunday will see Kent Girls under 11s, 13s, 15s and 18s events during a “Festival of Female Rugby”.

Providing Open and Social events endeavours to cater for teams and players of all standards and with a full array of catering and bars, the well-established event promises to be another excellent weekend of rugby.

The more ambitious sides will be seeking qualifying points as they look to progress through to the National Finals to be held on 11th July.

Early entry is recommended and entry forms are here.

Countryside Kent 7s 2020 Entry Form

If you have any further questions then do please contact Graham Withers 07786 666348 or gwithers10@btinternet.com.

Honours even (again!) in second A21 Derby – Sevenoaks 18 Tunbridge Wells 18.

With both clubs comfortably in the London South East Premier League mid-table and split by just two places and points, this was a game that would likely see the winners well-positioned for a late season push towards the top four. After a tight 15-15 draw at St Marks in November the scene was set for another close game between the ‘friendliest’ of local rivals.

On an understandably heavy pitch it was Tunbridge Wells who kicked off, with a strong cross-field wind behind. The gusty conditions were to make to make it difficult for both teams with line-out throwing and box kicking particularly susceptible to the elements.
The opening phases of the game were to set the scene for what was to follow with Wells very much looking to play with the ball in hand and exploit any opportunities they had to run at the Sevenoaks defence. After some initial thrusts a first scrum was set on halfway. The visitors were very mindful of Sevenoaks’ set piece excellence with both the scrum and line-out being strong attacking weapons. However, the first scrum gave some cause for optimism as it held firm. However, the hosts were soon to get a second chance as the long clearing kick from Oaks scrum-half Matt Holmes was fumbled close to the Wells line and a very promising attacking position was provided to the hosts. Sevenoaks span the ball wide to the left wing but excellent cover defence by Rich Murray and Richard Webster forced them into touch.

The next five minutes or so so witnessed the game being played very much between the halfway line and Sevenoaks 22 but strong defence was a characteristic of the game throughout and errors were forced meaning that little momentum could be gained by either side. On nine minutes, Wells were forced into a temporary re-jigging of the back line when outside half Frank Reynolds received a nasty cut to the head when making a tackle. This saw the welcome return after injury of Charlie Rigby who took up scrum-half duties, with Eddie Croft moving from 9 to the wing, and Max Hobbs to full back to cover whilst his skipper Ryan Taylor Dennehy slotted in at outside half.

This was very evidently a ‘derby’ in style as a frenetic pace was maintained throughout with physical confrontations occurring across Knole Paddock. And this physicality was never more evident than on 13 minutes when Sevenoaks took the lead. Having earned a scrum penalty they kicked deep into Wells territory to set an attacking line-out. The Oaks rolling maul had been a very effective tool in the first meeting of the teams at St Marks and when home hooker Scott Sedgwick combined with Kenny Lee they looked to drive the ball over. Wells did well to resist this effort but it was only to be a temporary respite. Sevenoaks took advantage of this momentum to spin the ball through the hands and impressive centre Leighton Ralph found a way through the defensive line. Despite stumbling just short, he was able to dot down for the opening try of the match. Wing Ben Adams slotted the extra two. 7–0.

When the wind carried the re-start dead Sevenoaks were able to take a scrums on halfway but the visitors were able to usher the ensuing attack into touch. This was the catalyst for the best Wells attack of the first half. Webster made a powerful initial surge before Nick Doherty, Ben Whale and Mike Hathaway combined to make further in roads. A heavily bandaged Reynolds had now returned and he made a scintillating break through the Sevenoaks back line before linking with the ever willing Mike Doherty. The centre sidestepped past the last defender before diving over the line close to the posts. This made the conversion something of a formality for Reynolds and it was now 7–7 on 17 minutes.

Oaks did well to wrap up the catcher at the restart and earn an attacking scrum but when Mike Doherty made a forceful tackle he earned a penalty for his team and after a second breakdown infringement in as many minutes the visitors were awarded a penalty 40 metres out in front of the posts. With the wind at his back Reynolds opted for a kick at goal even though it was probably at the edge of his range. However, he was as relieved as the large travelling support when it struck the crossbar but bounced forward and over. 7–10 after 23 minutes.

Any inquest that the Sevenoaks coaching staff will hold post the match will likely focus on ill-discipline as the home team were certainly penalised more often by referee Katherine Ritchie, This was illustrated by a careless obstruction penalty at the re-start. The wind was playing merry hell with the visitors line-out at this stage and Sevenoaks were able to kick clear from what had been a promising Wells attacking position. However, Nick Doherty and lock Duncan Hales combined well to return the ball into Oaks territory.

Harrying defence from Wells caused Oaks to spill a ball soon after and it was Webster who was first to react and kick the ball ahead. Indeed, he looked odds-on favourite to gather the ball and score a try as his closest pursuer was teammate Murray. The covering defence flew across the field and as Webster looked to gather and fall over the line he appeared to be tackled without the ball. Referee Ritchie was perfectly placed to adjudge the situation, though, and whilst a penalty try looked like most likely option, she instead awarded a ‘normal’ try having decided Webster had got the ball to ground. The wide conversion was missed but it was now 7–15 after 27 minutes of play.

A series of penalties conceded by Wells was to give Sevenoaks a better platform and they were to take advantage of this. A quick tapped penalty made further ground leading to an attacking line-out 15 metres out on the left. Just as they has done earlier in the game, a maul was set and started to make ground before firm resistance seemed to have averted the worst of the crisis. Oaks we are not to be denied on this occasion, though, as they re-formed a second maul and powerful number eight Fred Richardson was able to drive over for the try. Given the windy conditions Adams’ low conversion attempt was a fine one but it still fell short. 12-15 on 34 minutes.

With the wind seemingly picking up even more, Wells would have been mindful that a three point gap at the interval would likely prove to be insufficient. They redoubled their efforts and spent most of the remaining period camped in the Sevenoaks half. Frustratingly, three successive line-outs were either lost or stolen enabling Sevenoaks to clear their lines. However, Taylor-Dennehy returned the ball with interest to drive the home team back to their own 22 metre line. On this occasion, it was Wells who were able to disrupt the line-out and hooker Stuart Nicholls was able to gather the loose ball. Hathaway drove on into midfield and when Sevenoaks were penalised for offside, Reynolds stepped forward from 18 metres to take the three points. The younger Doherty, Agy Eukaliti and Taylor-Dennehy combined once more before the interval but when the ball was lost forward the half-time whistle was blown.

The large crowd would no doubt have anticipated the physical encounter they were witnessing and whilst Wells fully deserved their lead at the interval they will have been concerned that the strength of the wind could play into the Sevenoaks hands in the second half. What they would have been encouraged by, though, was that their backs were making incisive runs with ball in hand and Webster, in particular, was looking very dangerous.

Nicholls has been “in the wars” in recent weeks and he was replaced at half-time by Charley Smith with Tui Tauaika taking over throwing duties. The prop was to be one of the most prominent characters in the second-half seemingly covering most blades of grass and mud patches at Knole Paddock.

The Oaks kickoff was sent long but a powerful Webster carry made initial yardage, followed by an excellent drilled clearance kick from Taylor-Dennehy. However, it wasn’t long before Ralph put in a fine kick of his own forcing Wells back and although Tauaika and Hales combined to secure  line-out ball the clearance kick only led to a mid-field scrum 35 metres out to the home side. In general, the Wells scrummage performed robustly throughout, particularly in the second half, but it was penalised on this occasion and Adams slotted the penalty kick after 45 minutes. 15–18.

With the Oaks faithful now becoming more vociferous, the boys from St Marks should be proud of how they responded. Indeed, the fact that they will no doubt be frustrated that they would leave at least two clear try scoring opportunities on the park is indicative of how this could be seen, perhaps, as a win that got away rather than the hard-fought draw that it became. Having said that, the home team, no doubt, will also be frustrated at the amount of a good quality ball they kicked away in the second period and the lack of precision that overall meant that the sharing of the spoils was far from an unfair final scoreline.

Taking a leaf out of the Sevenoaks playbook, a powerful line out maul made 15 metres for Tunbridge Wells taking them into Sevenoaks territory prior to it being halted illegally. Another maul was set and with several backs joining in to add additional momentum the visiting supporters were starting to cheer. However, to their frustration, players were adjudged to have joined the maul in front of the ball and a penalty was awarded to the home team.

This Wells team is never happier than when keeping ball in hand and they attempted to deal with the strong headwind by playing patient, phase orientated, rugby. However, a knock-on was to spoil their efforts and before long Sevenoaks were back in their half with an attacking line-out some 35 metres from the Wells try line.

Strong defence was able to resist the initial Sevenoaks efforts with Carl Straeche and Smith to the fore (the latter making the first of several muscular tackles). Having forced their opponents to kick, Taylor-Dennehy and Hathaway then combined to make initial yardage prior to Whale and Tauaika making even further ground. These two forwards were particularly prominent during the second 40 minutes.

On 52 minutes the home team had an attacking line out which saw them make in-roads into Wells territory as replacement prop Dan Power surged deep into the visitors 22. Again, Smith made a hefty hit out wide which enabled Webster to bring the ball clear. Just as it looked like a promising counter-attack might be on, former Tunbridge Wells product Sedgwick showed once again that he is something of a master of the dark arts, to snaffle a steal at the ruck and put Sevenoaks back in good field position.

From a scrum attack Webster was able to dislodge the ball in a tackle and Whale surged into the Sevenoaks half before linking with the athletic Hales. He took the ball on further, supported by Tauaika and the visitors were now very much on the front foot deep in Sevenoaks territory. Taylor-Dennehy took the ball up before feeding out to what was now a three against one overlap but to the frustration of the Wells players and fans, the ball was lost forward and a clear opportunity had gone begging.

James Pancaldi now replaced Eukaliti for the final quarter. Utilising the wind Sevenoaks pinned Wells back but a powerful Tauaika run saw him break three tackles before being hauled down and earning a penalty that enabled Reynolds to push the ball back into Sevenoaks territory.

The respite was only temporary and when Wells were penalised for being offside 45 metres out it was no great surprise to see Ben Adams stride forward to take a shot at goal given he had been striking the ball so well throughout. He did so again and the ball soared between the posts to draw the scores level at 18–18 after 67 minutes.

Two further strong Whale carries put Wells on the attack and when Oaks were penalised at a ruck 25 metres out Reynolds had the opportunity to put his team back in front. However, into the wind he needed to strike the ball firm and low and unfortunately, from his point of view, this saw him drag the ball just wide of the left upright.

Eukaliti returned for Hales and Wells’ attacking ambitions remained intact . Number Eight Doherty and Hathaway combined again to make good ground . To be fair, though, they were assisted in this by some wayward Sevenoaks kicking and it wasn’t long before this momentum saw two successive ruck penalties and a further opportunity for Reynolds with 5 minutes of normal time to play. He will likely be a little more disappointed at this effort which was closer in but again went astray. It is hard not to underestimate the difficult nature of the gusting wind too though.

The visitors definitely looked the more likely team to score at this stage and when Taylor-Dennehy and Whale combined in midfield to release Croft, the former winger showed some of his pace to make 40 metres into the home 22. Despite frantic defence it still looked likely to create a try-scoring opportunity as the ball was moved to the right wing. However, audible groans from the travelling support were heard when a pass was forward and a scrum awarded to Sevenoaks. As the clock ticked into injury time the question now was whether or not a further scoring opportunity could be created by either team and, in fact, it was Sevenoaks who would have the last significant chance.

A deep clearance was fielded by Taylor-Dennehy 30 metres from his own line but when his kick was charged down it was Oaks winger Adams who was first to react to react and gather the ball. He was (thankfully from Wells perspective) flirting with the touchline though and with the referee perfectly placed she saw his right foot touch the white-wash as fed the ball inside to supporting players and a line-out was awarded. With Sevenoaks now sensing a final opportunity 15 metres out, it took a clever three-man line-out option and short throw to acting half-back Hathaway from Tauaika to alleviate the initial threat, and a fine Mike Doherty clearance kick sent Oaks back. They then returned the kick and with Eukaliti And Whale trucking the ball back up to halfway a penalty was earned. Reynolds found touch and with an attacking line-out 35 metres out could this be the opportunity Wells were seeking to seal the win? The simple answer was no as Sevenoaks stole the line-out and walloped the ball deep down the field in to Wells territory. With little to gain from taking any risks, Taykor-Dennehy simply kicked the ball dead and an 18–18 draw was confirmed.

So the 2019/20 season has resulted in two drawn A21 Derbies. In all fairness, this is a pretty accurate reflection of where the teams stand. They are separated by just two points and (now) one league position. If Sevenoaks were probably a shade unfortunate to not win at Tunbridge Wells then it is quite possible to make the counter argument with respect to this game. Honours even.

Squad: Ryan Taylor-Dennehy (Capt); Richard Webster, Rich Murray, Mike Doherty, Max Hobbs; Frank Reynolds, Eddie Croft; Tui Tauaika, Stuart Nicholls, Carl Straeche, Ben Whale, Duncan Hales, Agy Eukaliti, Mike Hathaway, Nick Doherty. Subs: Charlie Rigby, Charley Smith, James Pancaldi.

Elsewhere in the League

Guernsey sit atop the league but only on points difference from Rochford Hundred. Both teams have 93 points after 7-31 and 31-12 wins at Tring and home to Guildford respectively. They have five games each left which is one less than Wimbledon who are 8 points back (their game in hand being at St Marks on 14th March).  They were pushed hard in a 26-19 win over 4th placed Dorking and can still have a significant part to play in the title and promotion race as they travel to the Channel Islanders on 28th March. Dorking are joined on 59 points by Hertford who were involved in a thrilling game at Bedford Athletic where the home team illustrated that they are still battling hard against relegation before falling to a 34-36 defeat. Sevenoaks are 6th on 51 whilst yesterday’s draw saw us move up to 7th on 49, one point ahead of Sidcup who succumbed 17-31 in South London to Brighton. The Seasiders remain in a rich vein of form and are in 9th on 44 points following an impressive six successive wins since losing to us. 

If Brighton can, perhaps, start to breathe more easily in the relegation battle, the same cannot be said of 10th placed Tring who have 36 points. They are one ahead of CS Stags who will be relieved to have won their massive home game against 12th placed London Irish Wild Geese, with the visitors picking up just a losing bonus point with the game ending 22-15. This means they are now 7 points away from safety on 28, one ahead of Bedford Athletic after their two hard-earned bonus points yesterday. Guildford remain at the bottom on 20 points and with 4 of their last 5 games against top half teams (and the other versus ‘in-form’ Brighton) their fate looks pretty much sealed. 

One more bonus-point win will see us mathematically “safe” (and we host 10th placed Tring next week), as would a failure by either London Irish or Bedford to win on Saturday….and as they play Sevenoaks and Guernsey respectively there must be a chance that this will prove beyond them both. 

Graham Withers