Academy & Senior Club Awards 2020

The Club has held it’s Academy and Senior Awards over the past two successive Fridays, to formally draw the 2019/20 season to a close. With the Covid-19 lock-down curtailing the season back in March we have all had to get used to changes in the way we live our life and the onset of a “new normal”. 


One of the ‘positive’ developments which has ensued has been the way we have started to use evolving technology to maintain a semblance of business as usual and, hence, the awards were held over Zoom, with over 30 attendees at the Academy event on 15th May. We then had approaching 80 players, coaches, officials and supporters wearing Black Tie in the Zoom room last Friday (22nd), plus many others following the evening on Facebook. The generations were spanned with the likes of John Evans at one end of the spectrum and young Ollie Rigby learning the tricks of the trade from his father, Club Chairman Mike Rigby, at the other.


Academy Awards

After overcoming some initial difficulties, the Academy squad went on to attain a 100% record. Played 7 won 7, scoring 219 points and conceding just 34. Sadly, their two biggest matches were cancelled with TJs withdrawing from their scheduled match on “strength” grounds (and not because they

 were too strong..wink wink!) and then Coronavirus claiming the much anticipated Kent Plate Final against Canterbury. The lads should be very proud of their campaign, though, and the future of the club looks rosy. 


The individual award winners were:-


Most Improved Player: Alex Thomas

Top Try Scorer: Connor Bourne

“Did I really say that?”: Will Hawksfield

Coaches’ Forward Player: Jamie Phillips

Coaches’ Back Player: Sam Dupuy

Players’ Player: Markus Lagnovics

Academy Player and Clubman: Innes Woodhouse.


The players would like to thank an ‘army’ of people who supported and helped them: Andy Child (Team Manager), Jim Scully (Head Coach), Max Douch (Backs Coach), Tui Tauaika & Agy Eukaliti (Forwards Coaches), Lucas Scully, Drew Raine (Communications), Sean Maywood (Teamer Manager), Tash Gale (Physio) and Duncan Keys (Pitches). In addition Monday night training sessions would not have been the same without Alex “Fat Pants” Nicholson, Laurence Taylor, Paul Miles, Ollie Allman, Richard Sparks, Martin Slattery, Tiggy Bartley and James Gwinnett. 


Senior Awards

The irrepressible Tim McCabe was our compere for the evening, with Mac GD acting as Floor (Zoom) Manager and Director…..


We first raised a glass to absent friends to mark those who have passed away over the last 12 months – John Exall was a President 1973-86 and 1st team Captain 1950-52. He was a Life Vice President and had dedicated his life to the Club; David Barnard who died earlier this month after a short illness was a club VP. He was 1st team Captain in the 1958-59 season and lived in Sheffield. He and his wife always tried to attend the Spa lunch at the end of the season Gordon Thornby was a fixture in the Club in the 50s and 60s and will have been known to many people. Bob Wykes was the Junior Co-ordinator in the early 90s and contributed to the ongoing success of the Junior section. He died earlier this month at the age of 87. And, of course, we lost Steve “Angry” Anderson who has been at the heartbeat of the club for so many years. A true “club” man. Gone but not forgotten.


We were then joined by the first of a number of “guests” who offered light relief and support via a series of pre-recorded messages. World Cup Final referee Nigel Owens recalled his attendance at the 2014 awards and he was later followed by Andy Goode (2015 guest of honour), Rob & Alex Lozowski, Jason Leonard and Martin Corry.


Chairman Mike Rigby then welcomed the assembled throng before providing an update on the season just gone – both on and off the pitch. He highlighted our excellent 6th place in the league, the two drawn ‘derby’ games against Sevenoaks when the teams “could literally not be separated” and the progress made on the 3G pitch and club plans. His stand-out performance though was the Academy and their undefeated season.


Youth Clubman of the Year

Junior Chairman Laurence Taylor expressed his pride in a youth section that has over 600 playing members, despite an incredibly tough season which saw 5 months of weather disruptions before Covid-19 halted all playing….and just as the weather was perking up too! That over 20% of these players are in the Under 6s is a powerful testament to the continued attractiveness of rugby as a sport.


Laurence then announced Simon Hughes as the winner of this award. Not only is he the club’s Commercial Director at the forefront of the 3G pitch and new “Youth Shirt” projects, but he remains an “inspirational Head Coach of the Under 9s”.


Academy Player of the Year (Seniors)

Academy Backs Coach Max Douch announced this award which recognises the Academy player to make the biggest impression in his first season transitioning into senior Saturday rugby. The award went to a player who made his senior debut on his 17th birthday, playing alongside his very proud father, and scoring a try to boot! Harry Child is a very “exciting player to watch with ball in hand…..and is the future of the club”. He also continued to be a key part of the Academy squad.


Young Player of the Year

Mike Rigby announced this award and it went to Jake Smith. The flanker has made rapid progress in recent seasons, graduating from the Academy via impressive performances in the 2nd XV to make his First XV debut a few months ago. A highly-talented athlete and fierce competitor he will surely become a mainstay of the elite squad in the years to come. 


Anthony Clarke Memorial Award

Roger Clarke, club Life Vice-President and RFU Council Member for Kent, announced this annual award in memory of his son Anthony. It is awarded to a player who has made the full transition from mini rugby right through the club to the seniors so is, quite rightly, held as one of the evening’s most prestigious accolades.


This year’s winner is Harvey Colangelo. Not only has Harvey played in all the age groups through mini and juniors but he has also completed the “full house” of Academy, Fourth, Third and Second XV appearances ahead of making his First XV debut in the 2019/20 season. He has an “excellent attitude and temperament” and his strong performances in the 1st XV level bode well for a successful career ahead of him at this level.


Vets Player of the Year

Sadly, skipper Father Ed Tomlinson had very little on-pitch rugby to reflect on – played one won one – so instead this year’s award was made for “off” field activities.

Club members (and victims further afield!) will have to be living in a cave with no WI-FI to have not had the ‘joy’ of watching the Vets “Lockdown” videos and little embodies the spirit of #oneTWRFC more than these terrific efforts. Consequently, the creative geniuses behind the videos Tom “Tommo” Callaway and Tom Beynon are richly deserved joint winners.


Third XV Player of the Year

Andy Cunningham presented a season that saw some heavy “mis-matched” defeats but overall produced a record of played 12, won 6, lost 6. He was quite rightly proud of the fact that unlike many teams at this level in the county, Wells did not forfeit any games and also gave 53 players a run out during the campaign. This year’s winner is Nick Baldock, a true clubman who “encompasses the spirit of the 3s” and “played every position from prop to taking conversions to serving behind the bar!”.


Second XV Player of the Year

Head Coach Mav Anderson reflected on a tough campaign that saw just 4 wins from 14 matches played and a remarkable 68 players used……better player availability leading to greater continuity of selection has to be a goal for next season. Mav was, though, delighted that seven 2nd XV players made the step up to earn their first caps at 1s level and also commended the spirit of his squad and the attitude of players who dropped down to the 2s at various stages.


The likes of Connor Davis, Jack Palmer, Angus Horne and Jamie Piggins should be proud of their contributions but this season’s winner was a stand-out in the shape of Lucas Scully. Having made his First XV debut in the 2018/19 season he spent the bulk of this season in the 2nds where his ability to play so many positions was a god-send. Indeed, this might have counted against him when it came to possible elevation to the First XV but he “stayed focused on delivering for TWRFC and committed to training hard and learning”. His time in the 1s will surely come again before too long.


First XV Awards

Head Coach Simon Whatling was able to report on another successful campaign and a 6th placed league finish. That this was achieved playing a brand of attacking and open rugby that has come to be seen as the “Tunbridge Wells way” should not be under-estimated.


1st XV Most Improved Player

This was awarded to flanker James Pancaldi. James arrived just a few weeks into the season but quickly established himself as a regular in the back row and 1st XV match day squad. He has a “great attitude, commitment and level of intensity…..the lad that never steps back!”.


1st XV Top Try Scorer

Given the nature of Wells’ attacking back play this season it was unsurprising that this award would come down to a straight shoot-out between two prolific try-scoring backs. Max Hobbs has exhibited superb form all season and has quickly become a fan favourite but his tally of 12 tries left him just one short of another player who would sit firmly in the camp of one of the most popular players that the club has seen in recent times. Mike Doherty‘s 13 tries secured an un-paralleled third successive top try-scorer award. Mike trains harder than ever to maintain the fitness levels that makes him one of the most consistent performers in the squad and enables him to be “always in the right position to receive the ball to break the line”.


1st XV Players Player of the Year

In what was undoubtedly one of the most popular wins of the night, Stuart Nicholls picked us this prestigious award as voted by his fellow players. Stu is a “clubman through and through” and off the pitch he organises the Socials for the Seniors. However, this should by no means detract that this true team player is now firmly ensconced as one of the first names down on the First XV team sheet. He “delivers for the squad week in week out with body on the line performances”.


1st XV Player of the Season

Si Whatling drew the playing awards to a close with the announcement that in the face of strong competition from Nicholls and skipper Ryan Taylor-Dennehy, the Player of the Season would be Frank Reynolds. The outside half continues to demonstrate his ” excellent knowledge of the game” and “is a consistent performer week in week out”. Whatling continued “Frank is a game changer who keeps the scoreboard ticking over and is a leader amongst a very capable squad of players”. There can be little higher an accolade than that.


Clubman of the Year

Mike Rigby made the final award of the evening. Despite strong competition from Stuart Montgomery, Michelle Greenall and Drew Raine, this year’s award went to the highly-deserving Nick Van Overstraeten.

Nick has taken on responsibility for club facilities and has delivered multiple improvement projects including the Internal Sound system, the External PA, a re-vamped gym/physio/changing rooms and, of course, the new club cafe. As well as always being a keen volunteer to assist with BBQs and socials, he has kept the club “legal” and has been “omnipresent around the club making sure it runs smoothly”.


The Chairman then thanked all involved in producing our Zoom awards before closing the evening with with a rallying call that once we are able to resume rugby again, the the Club “will move on stronger, with greater ambition and with a huge desire to progress”. Hear, Hear!


Graham Withers

2019/20 Players Player of the Year – Stuart Nicholls
2019/20 Academy Players Player of the Year – Markus Lagnovics
2019/20 1st XV Player of the Season – Frank Reynolds

Off to pastures new….and with our thanks for all you have given……..

One of the best things about taking on the role of Press Officer on my return to the club was a sense that I could still be close to any interesting club news, important developments on the playing front and the key decisions made by club management but without having to put in the hard yards that the Board members have to commit to. Usually, unless the seniors have had a (very rare) bad day at the office, match reporting is an exercise I enjoy, and most of the other news I am asked to report for the website, or to send to local press, is overwhelmingly positive in nature. 


However, just occasionally I am privy to news that makes me shed a metaphorical tear…… and so it was last Thursday when I was asked to include a note on the departure of a player when I next do a write up. That the player is, quite simply, one of the very best to have worn the Wells shirt in our club’s 90 years, to my mind demanded more than just a cursory note in an article. I was, therefore, very grateful when Mike Hathaway agreed to my request for a “de-brief” even if it had to be at a very social distance, somewhat fitting for a man who (when not making turnovers, thumping tackles, or carrying the ball fiercely into the heart of opposing teams) is a front-line worker in his role as a clinical lead respiratory physiotherapist within the  Maidstone NHS Trust. It is typical of the 27 year-old that whilst he did not want a fuss, he trusted me enough to say “yes”.


In making the 9 1/2 mile journey from St Marks to the Tonbridge Juddians ground at The Slade for next season, he will be following in the path tread by what I make to be 9 players who had previously plied their trade with the Wells in the past 10 years or so. If there are any additions to the list of Will Thorpe, Charlie Harding, Dan Bettice, Peter Binham, Luke Giles, James Gwinnett, Jon McMahon, Toby May and Murray Galbraith-Lowe then do feel free to let me know? What these players did not do at the time, though, was move up from Level Five rugby to test themselves at the heights of Level Three and National League One,which is the challenge facing Mike. 


My questions were not designed to be testing or tricky. They were simply intended as an opportunity for him, and us as a club, to reflect on the 21 years (so far…..) he has spent playing at St Marks.


Lets start with your Rugby CV?

I first started playing rugby in the minis at Tunbridge Wells in the Under 6s. Both my brother (Tom, also a former First XV player) and dad (former player and Head Coach Paul) were playing and I wanted a taste. I then played at the club from Under 6s right through to Under 17s. I represented Kent from Under 13-16s and was also very proud to have been a First XV player at Skinners School.


Ongoing shoulder injuries meant that I did not play rugby whilst I was at university, but this gap also renewed my passion for the game and I have been thrilled to play First XV rugby for the Wells during the last 5 seasons. I have also been a member of the Kent County squad for the last three years.

What are you earliest rugby memories?
My earliest rugby memories are playing for Tunbridge Wells in the  mini festivals at Cobham and London Irish wearing thick cotton navy and white checked Wells colours.

Who are your biggest rugby influences?
As a flanker, I used to love watching players like Lewis Moody and Richard Hill. They had no respect for their bodies and did the hard work but I can’t say they really influenced me. I know it sounds corny but the biggest influence has to be my old man. He coached me from a young age as a junior and then into the Colts at St Marks. My mum will testify that we certainly didn’t always see eye to eye as a coach and player but hindsight is a wonderful thing and he is one of the best coaches that I’ve worked with. He certainly instilled the key basic skill sets, encouraged me to be a ‘heads up’ rugby player and showed the importance of having a good knowledge of game. He still watches now and I always value his opinion and perspective.

I think I have to also give a huge amount of credit to Si Whatling (our current Head Coach), as well as Dave Allen and Aston Croall over the last couple of seasons. They added a huge amount to my game, pushed my physicality and skills. They instilled a sense of confidence in my own game and re-emphasised the importance of a good work ethic. All coaches have different ways of going about their business, but these three have all been brilliant at bringing out the best in players. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with them as a player and will miss that environment. I have to give those guys a huge amount of credit and couldn’t value their input enough.

Who are the best players you have played against……and with?

Against: Elliot Daly whilst he was at WhitGift School – ridiculously quick and brilliant footwork.
With: Harry Sloan (ex Skinners, England Under 20s, Harlequins and now at Ealing in the Championship). He is a big and physical centre yet has so much time on the ball. At Wells it’s Nick Doherty – that boy can do some outrageous things and it has been brilliant playing with him from school rugby to seniors at the club. It’s safe to say I’ll miss packing down with him for sure.

What are your favourite moments/best memories…so far?

The Twickenham year and Intermediate Cup Final are obviously up there. However, for me the 100 minute game against Chingford for promotion to Level 5 was amazing. Final whistle went and I burst into tears; I was both exhausted and relieved! Even more so as I had been playing injured since Christmas. In one sense I was glad it was over, but also thrilled that we had the win and the promotion after our collective hard work.

And why the move? Why now?

I hope to earn regular First XV rugby at TJs and just try and see if I can compete at that level. To be honest, I have been thinking about playing higher for the last few seasons but have enjoyed playing with this close group of players and with such a great coaching set up. I couldn’t justify making the move until now but I feel that I am at the stage where I want to test myself further and see how high I can play. Having been selected for Kent the last 3 seasons, I have had a small taste of both playing with and against players at level 3 and 4. National One will be a big step up again, but I didn’t feel out of place in the county set up and want to see what I can achieve. There had been interest in recruiting me for a few seasons and with their finally securing promotion, I felt it was too good an opportunity to turn down. Let’s hope I can force my way in for selection.

Having grown up playing at the club from Under 6s and having had a lot of success in the 1st XV over the last 5 season it was a tough decision to move, and not one taken lightly. The close knit player group and strong community atmosphere at club will be sorely missed. I have had great experiences on and off the pitch and certainly hope to finish my playing days back at St Marks. However, there are times when you need to push the boat out, roll the dice and and keep challenging yourself, so let’s see what happens.


Let’s see what happens indeed.

Who knows when rugby will begin again, but I, for one, intend  the occasional visit to The Slade to support Mike in his future endeavours. He leaves the club as one of the most influential players in recent times (as recognised by his collecting the Anthony Clarke Memorial Award, a Player’s Player trophy and two “Player of the Year” accolades). These have all been thoroughly deserved. TJs are gaining a  passionate and fierce competitor, which when coupled with his unquestioned skill levels will no doubt prove a great asset as they look to make their mark in National One.


I started by saying that this news made me sad when I heard it, and it did. However, this sadness was fleeting. It was quickly replaced by an immense sense of pride and of privilege in having been fortunate enough watch him play such a pivotal role for our club as his Chairman, a supporter, a match reporter and a friend. If you cut Mike open (and this has happened on a fair few occasions in the line of rugby duty!) he would bleed TW blue and I am sure we all wish him the very best of rugby fortune in the years ahead…..Don’t you dare become a stranger maestro.

#oneTWRFC

Graham Withers

Mike’s final appearance against Wimbledon

The club moves quickly to appoint Dave Marshall as new Director of Rugby

Tunbridge Wells RFC have taken rapid steps to appoint a new Director of Rugby following Jim Scully’s decision to step down at the end of the curtailed 2019/20 campaign. The new man at the helm is Dave Marshall. 


Dave began his senior rugby career with RFU Championship side Nottingham for whom he signed straight from school. He played in the highly competitive English Championship for 3 seasons before taking the exciting opportunity to play a season in Brisbane, Australia for Queensland Premier side Brothers. Not only has this given him a global insight into the game that is not available to many but in being able to play with, and against, several Super Rugby players and Australian internationals, he has first-hand knowledge of what it takes to get the best out of each individual player.

 
On his return to the UK, he signed for Blackheath in a dual role as both a player and as an academy coach alongside current Tunbridge Wells Head Coach Simon Whatling. Indeed, he has been assisting Simon on the coaching side at TWRFC in an advisory role since the turn of the year. 


Club Chairman Mike Rigby commented: “Following on from Jim Scully’s fine work, we have decided the time was right to look externally for his replacement. In Dave, we had an ideal candidate who has already got to know the majority of the current First and Second XV squads. The Board believes that the continuity this brings, coupled with his proven tack-record of working alongside Simon, puts the Senior and Academy playing side of the club on a very firm footing as we look ahead to whenever our season can begin post-lockdown”.

Away from rugby, Dave is Managing Director of Royal Docks CrossFit in London and also Commercial Director of tech company SUJI.

Graham Withers

Six Nations Lockdown Challenge – Launch

We started wanting to do the Home Nations – 877 miles but with all the miles pledged we are going to all of the Six Nations stadia 2451 miles.

As players, from U6 to Vets, and parents embark on their virtual journey across six countries we need to convert those miles to donations for Hospice in the Weald – donations can be made at our Just Giving page,

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/twrfchomenationschallenge

For Hospice in the Weald, like many other charities, the lockdown has meant that vital sources of funding have stopped with shops closed and fundraising events cancelled for the foreseeable future.

Hospice in the Weald has been further impacted by increased demand to support patients but also to do so under strict Covid-19 controls requiring PPE. Like all Hospices, Hospice in the Weald is not part of the NHS and although they do get a small amount of funding from the government the vast majority of the running costs are funded from charitable donations.

With the impact of increased demand, increased costs and reduced donations the club are embarking on this challenge to help Hospice in the Weald as they work on the front line of the pandemic giving patients a dignified death and supporting their wider families.

#oneTWRFC

#lockdownchallenge

A trip down the TWRFC memory lane – Part Two

Last week I took us back to April 2017 and the promotion play-off win at Chingford that brought us up to our current level 5. This week, we go back one more year to the day Tunbridge Wells RFC “turned HQ blue”!
I sit writing this looking out at a cloudless blue sky on the eve of the 4th anniversary of the greatest day in the club’s history. The forecast for tomorrow is “Sunny and 20 degrees, much as it was on Saturday 7th May 2016.


I had intended to share a few of my own “Mr Chairman” memories but given the quality of the contributions I have received from so many others who shared that day with us, I have decided these can wait for the 5th anniversary. These memoirs will, though, definitely include how Greg Robbins, Clint Redman, Adam Webb and I beat the horrendous Portsmouth weather and the “boisterous” home fans by occupying their wind and rain-swept balcony throughout as we took the first steps on the path to Twickenham….soaked through but happy…..we must have been bonkers!

THE 2015/16 ROAD TO TWICKENHAM…….London & South East Intermediate Cup
September 12th – Round One BYE

November 28th – Round Two Portsmouth 5 Tunbridge Wells 13

February 6th – Round Three Tunbridge Wells 48 Hove 5

February 27th –  Quarter-Final Tunbridge Wells 20 Horsham

10March 12th – Semi-Final Fullerians 0 Tunbridge Wells 53

March 26th – Final Sevenoaks 10 Tunbridge Wells 38


RFU Intermediate Cup

April 9th – National Semi-Final Tunbridge Wells 29 Matson 15

May 7th – National Final St Benedict’s 14 Tunbridge Wells 56

There is a story to be told on each of the March and April matches but I shall save this for 2021 too……
Saturday 7th May 2016For the match report I turn to the admirably fair review by the Cumbrian News & Star newspaper:-

“St Benedict’s dream run to Twickenham proved to be one step too far as they were well beaten by Tunbridge Wells, who extended their winning streak to 29 matches. The 56–14 final score in the RFU Intermediate Cup final was, to be fair, an accurate reflection of the game. As both teams have won promotion to Step 6 for next season, neither will have the chance to repeat the experience, at least in the RFU Intermediate Cup.

The match had a messy start with the opening scrum having to be reset and Tunbridge Wells were then penalised for hooking too early. They had, however, shown that their pack was strong and mobile and when the next scrum was set, St Bennys found themselves five metres back. A minute later, Tunbridge Wells were reduced to 14 men when Lee Campion was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle. From the resulting penalty Bennys attacked and Kyle Drake thought he had scored in the left corner, only for the touch-judge to rule that full-back Mike Hawley had knocked on as he challenged his opposite number Hayden Pope for a kick-through.

Another big problem for the Cumbrians was that their line-out was failing miserably. Three of their first five throws missed the intended target and Tunbridge Wells got the ball, too. In the ninth minute, from their first attack inside the Cumbrians’ 22, the Kent club showed the power and pace, and only a tremendous last-ditch tackle from Hawley stopped a try, albeit at the expense of a five-metre scrum. From there, Bennys were penalised and Tunbridge Wells elected for another scrum. This time, there was no stopping the powerful pack and Nicholas Doherty touched down beside the posts. Pope added the extras.

There was immediately more danger for St Benedicts when Tunbridge Wells launched another attack. Hawley, was once more the hero, producing an excellent on-on-one tackle to stop Alex Maynard. It was a temporary reprieve because after a turnover, Tunbridge Wells again attacked down the right and this time Maynard would not be denied, running behind the posts to touch down.

Something had to be done to slow down the Tunbridge Wells charge and when they were penalised for going over the top to kill a ruck, St Bennys elected to kick at goal. Unfortunately, Daniel Rayson was wide left with the kick and, things got even worse a minute later when Campion ran onto a grubber kick and scored a third Tunbridge Wells try. With 22 minutes on the clock, after Pope’s missed conversion, the score was 19–0 and the men from Mireside had a mountain to climb.

A break by Hawley offered some hope, but that was extinguished five metres out by a knock-on and then a penalty as a forward picked up the loose ball in an offside position. In 32nd minute, there was more joy for the men from Kent as Maynard made another break and Campion finished it off. Four minutes before half-time a high tackle on the 22 gave Tunbridge Wells a penalty and Pope added another three points, making it 27–0.

With the last play of the half, St Benedicts got on the board with a try from Ryan Fisher. Hawley made the break, chipped over Pope and then got a bit of good fortune as the bounce went Fisher’s arms and he scored. Rayson added the conversion.

St Benedicts need to make a good start to the second half, and two mistakes from Tunbridge Wells helped to them achieve it. A box kick went into touch on the full and Pope knocked on from a kick into space. From the scrum, two missed tackles gave Hawley clear run to the line and the cover didn’t arrive in time to stop him. Rayson’s conversion cut the deficit to less than two scores and St Benedicts were definitely back in the game. Now it was Tunbridge Wells’ turn to display nerves and they started making handling errors under little pressure. Bennys had both a lineout and scrum between the 22 and 10-metre lines, but they failed to take advantage of either good position.

The comeback was stilled in the 53rd minute when Charlie Harding made a break, broke through four tackles and his pass gave Tasi Fred Tila the chance to charge over the line. Three minutes later, more dancing feet from Harding ripped open the St Benedicts defence and after he was stopped five metres out, Charles Spence was able to wriggle past a couple of players on the try line before putting down the ball.With 20 minutes remaining Steven Wood was sin-binned for a high-tackle, and Tunbridge Wells capitalised, five minutes later, when Harding scored near to the right touchline. Brave tackling from Fisher stopped Guthrie Holliday from adding his name to the Tunbridge Wells try-scorers, but when the attack broke down, Harding dropped a goal from 20 metres out. With a little more than two minutes remaining Tunbridge Wells broke through the 50-point barrier. Maynard, whose running was too much for the Miresiders all afternoon, burst through the defensive line and he sent Pope over in the left corner. The full-back added the conversion to complete a comfortable victory.”So now, without further ado here are the personal memories of that day as written by seven people. I have tweaked these as little as possible as I have always been a subscriber to the theory that you should never let the truth get in the way of a good story…….there is a lot to read but then again we do currently have the time……!

The Organiser – Michelle Greenall
“After the semi final against Matson on the 9th of April there was so much to do to prepare for the final less than a month away. The football club had been to a Wembley final the year before so we knew that the town would unite behind the rugby club going to Twickenham. The big issues were tickets, merchandise, transport and the RFU paperwork. We decided that it was easiest for people to buy their own tickets and we split the paperwork between us. That just left stash and transport.

It’s situations like this when you realise what a great club Tunbridge Wells is! The offers from volunteers flooded in. We designed a logo, ordered hundreds of T shirts, polo shirts, hoodies. flags and bags (to #turnhqblue) and organised places to set up pop up shops. They opened over the long May bank holiday weekend.  The response was overwhelming and we sold out of hoodies and polo shirts and had to place another order!

We also decided that we owed it to the members to organise transport to Twickenham and we ended up booking coaches to take over 600 people to the ground.  We’d initially thought this would be an easy job and a coach company would just say thank you for the business and do all the work for us. This wasn’t the case and we had to take individual bookings and payments and then allocate seats on buses. It was hard work but we got everyone there (and back) and we did turn Twickenham blue!”


The Coach – Mike Whatman

“At the start of pre-season that year, the coaching group along with Mr Chairman met for a dinner to set out the goals for the upcoming season. The goals were to win London South East 2 and target a good cup run, with the priority obviously being the league. However, as the season progressed and it seemed that the league title was becoming an inevitability, the realisation after the regional final against Sevenoaks that we were 1 game away from Twickenham, hit us as coaching group. 


The semi-final at St Marks which is still one of my favourite days involved with the club, was a battle beyond belief, and in reality should have been the final. But Matson were put to one side and we were off to HQ.


As a coach, your job is really done before the day of a game. At this point it’s down to the players so I remember getting on the bus on the morning of the final feeling a huge amount of nervousness but also a huge sense of excitement about the opportunity that the boys had in front of them. We stopped off not far from the stadium at a very posh hotel for some food and to do some walk-throughs. Then we began the journey to Twickenham. 
We had seen the efforts the club had gone to with regards to “stash” and publicising the event. However we had no idea what we were about to see. As we got off the bus we could hear a buzz of excitement from behind the gate, then the gate opened for us to walk through and we were greeted by a cacophony of noise and blue, white and pink, that to this day still gives me goosebumps. I could see on everyone’s faces how much of an energy boost this gave everyone from Fred and Big Tone who took it in their usual laid back nature! 


We had to warm up on a dusty school playing field across the west car park, which meant there were major time differences compared to our usual pre-game warm up, but as we came to expect with that group, they took it all in their stride and before we knew it we were lined up in the tunnel waiting to get the nod to walk into the stadium. 


“Stand up, if you love the Wells…” welcomed us out pitch side and I remember turning to see the stand packed, it was unreal. Flags waving, familiar and unfamiliar faces wearing their stash with pride. The buzz was palpable and I’m not good at standing still at the best of times but that day was something else and added to the fact it was sweltering at pitch level, I needed severe re-hydration At full time! It was also a step into the unknown as we weren’t playing Sevenoaks or Crowborough anymore, it was an unknown quantity who had a tonne of confidence after their own unbeaten season. 


The lads were hugely confident, so confident in fact that Lee thought we could beat them with 14 men so thought he’d test that theory after 10 minutes … What a guy!? Every member of the match day squad played out of their skin that day; it was one of those days as a coach when you just stand and watch as a fan and admire what you are seeing, which was lucky as the crowd was so loud no one could have heard me shouting at them on the pitch anyway! 


Obviously by the last few minutes of the game the result was inevitable, but that didn’t take away the elation of the final whistle. As well as the team swan dive in front of the crowd at the end. Yes we have won closer games that were more tense, but because of the sheer theatre and once in a lifetime nature of the day, it will always be one of the proudest days of my life. 


An incredible group of lads who achieved incredible things together. But days like that aren’t just about the coaches or players it’s about the entire club and shows what can be achieved when everything comes together.” 


The Player – Lee Campion
“I can’t speak for the other players, coaches, physios and the vast support team, but it was a far calmer week as a player in the lead up to this game than the semi-final (I’m sure it wasn’t for many of the club staff & volunteers). For me it was just a pleasure to be there, sure I was desperate to crown off our run to the final with a win, but relief was the overriding emotion until the day. The semi-final was emotionally and physically draining, some calm was welcome, but inevitably it didn’t last long the nearer we got to kick-off.

We were blessed beforehand to have such amazing support and it’s testament to how great the T.Wells community is that people far and wide beyond the club were so engaged with the whole event. The size of crowd on the day, which felt like near 100% populated with TWRFC supporters, made for an amazing atmosphere.

On the day it ran like clockwork as the club had thought of everything we could need as a squad, even to the extent we were incredibly fortunate and grateful for one of our club sponsors organising a local hotel for a coffee, food and extra pre-hab. By pre-hab I mean sitting out in the sun getting a little top up of the tan for those match-day photos. It really helped break up what felt like the longest stretch of time between getting up, meeting and travelling to the ground. Most importantly it was the chance to relax and reflect with the boys away from the hyper energy of such a day.

I can safely say arriving at the ground was one of my all-time favourite moments in my entire time within the game of rugby. To walk through those main gates next to the golden lion statue, with what can only be described as a rapturous welcome from the TWRFC faithful, gave a real excited buzz for the boys at just the right time. As much as we were trying to act cool, calm and collected, it was a moment for me that gave a taste for us amateur players what it’s like for the professional players of the game. And for those thinking it was probably just a few people cheering as we wandered through, there’s a video of our arrival and it was anything but!

Getting into the stadium and our changing room was as you can imagine, like children running around just shouting at one another how cool this ‘playground’ of ours was for the day. I stuck to the same routine and could see the other boys doing likewise; humans are creatures of habit but none more so than in sports teams on match day. My mind slowed down at this point to take it all in, noticing all these little creature comforts and nuances of the boys prep, the coaches and physios. I realised at this point I was no more nervous than a normal match day, if anything less, but shortly after kick-off I got little shot in the arm.

Before the kick-off however we had that slow walk onto pitch-side. Obviously you know it’s not going to be like when you walk to your seat on an international match day, so it was a surprise to walk through the tunnel, turn and see what I believe was a wall of maybe 11,000-12,000 people (overwhelmingly in TWRFC gear). The rest of the stadium didn’t matter, looking up and spotting faces and the happiness of those involved with the club, it was a lift like no other before a game. Charlie Harding and I as we always do, sat next to one another in the changing room and walked out together, little moments like that give best mates their glory days stories until they’re old and grey. He spotted our significant others all together, at which point I gave in to a bit of emotion and gave up the act of keeping cool – that inner child who used to think how awesome it would be to run out on that pitch got to take over and enjoy the day.

It’s very much that inner child who I blame for getting over excited and immediately sin-binned post kick-off. Now I could try and claim mistaken identity but it’s a little difficult when you look up and see the big screen replaying your indiscretion. Saying that, I’m not entirely sure what the offence was, but I think my brain thought I was the complete rugby player all of a sudden and tried a swift tackle into jackal movement all in one. As it happened I think I’d barely let the poor guy get near the floor before I’m over him, slipping straight off the ball he’s trying to present and nearly taking his head off. Absolutely no risk of a red card but given the scrapping in the previous game the ref was keen to set the tone.I didn’t have any concern about the game. I knew the boys had this and of anyone in the team they could do without me for 10 minutes. It actually ranks as one of my favourite moments, getting even more of the professional experience than I bargained for, walking back towards thousands of supports as the yellow mark goes against our teams name on the big screen, replaying my clumsiness as I find my naughty chair by the side of the pitch. It also has given me a reasonable excuse for missing 30 tries in my first half season with TWRFC and of course what would have been a hat-trick at HQ.

The game was a buzz, hot and quite tough going energy wise, I think all the boys felt that. Scoring a couple of tries was the nice selfish moment, but just looking over at other players and our support team pitch-side, it was just great seeing as a group us all getting to enjoy what we’d done many times that season and put in a great performance on match day. Getting to look over at the loved ones and give them this one game in such a setting was huge. It might sound a bit much to some, but I’ve been ferried around for years and supported in all manner of conditions, in all manner of locations. I’m not too proud to say I loved getting to pretend to be the real deal for a day, feeling just a little bit like I was giving those loved ones something back for all the support over the years .

All the boys were sublime on the day, Charlie Harding epitomising the squads confidence and embodying our fun approach to games, by nonchalantly knocking over an entirely unnecessary drop-goal from far out as if we has bored with going more than a few phases on too many times. The team played their expansive style as normal, solid as you could ever ask for up-front and the backs doing waves of running for an old timer like me to latch onto at the right time. A great send-off for the boys leaving us after the season and a defining milestone for a young core of the squad that are still together today and doing an amazing job in their league campaigns. Shortly after the final whistle went, and we got to celebrate on the pitch and take it all in, getting presented the trophy and celebrating more than probably necessary (as I’m sure is typical of all the teams enjoying the day!).

Pitch-side pictures with family and friends to prove it wasn’t all a dream and to liven up the stories in years to come. Needless to say the changing room beers were the best tasting of the season, the food after the game the most comforting and the bus trip on the way home more energetic than we’d had for a while. Quite rightly we made our way back to T.Wells to do as teams should, celebrate in the age old manner we’d been accustomed to, to do so at the club with the team’s support that had been there all season wherever we’d been and however well or not we had done. Then into town, albeit this is the point that wisely the story ends.”

The (First) Parent – Thea Rigby

“In the months leading up to the Twickenham game Charlie was 18 was involved in the 1st XV and 2nd XV squads and was attending all training sessions taking it all very seriously.  For him it was all about making the match day squad if they got to the final. Obviously it was never a given that they would make the final but after the close Matson game win there was so much joy and excitement for the day to come. 

He still did not know if he would make the squad and I clearly remember the Thursday evening training session when he would find out whether he was in or not. He went off full of nerves but determined not to show it.  I know how disappointed he would have been to have missed out, so as a mother I spent the next couple of hours hoping for his sake that he would be chosen. He came home and didn’t say a word with a glum look on his face……Charlie being Charlie was just trying to wind me up and he pulled his matchday shirt out of his bag!  Number 22.  Can honestly  say we have never felt so happy for him in our lives.  He was beyond excited but also disappointed for a couple of lads who weren’t so lucky.

The day dawned after not sleeping so well…..full of expectation. So excited for Charlie who was about to have the day of his life. Travelling up to Twickenham on a coach with all the fans….So many coaches on the motorway with TWRFC flags waving and everyone in the same match day t-shirts. 

One of the most exciting moments of the day was waiting inside the main Twickenham gates waiting for the players to arrive.  The image of Charlie emerging through the gates with his bag on his back beaming from ear to ear will forever be etched in our memories. To tread where so many rugby legends had trod before, just a dream come true for all the lads. I had a tear in my eye when he came over to hug me that’s for sure. Then into the stadium. Charlie’s name up on the team board at Twickenham! The home of rugby union!! One of those pinch me moments…..The details of the game itself I don’t remember so well….  Just was hoping and praying not only that they would win but that Charlie would get a chance to play on the hallowed turf. Luckily TW were well ahead and so he got to play for about 20 minutes.  He actually had the chance to score himself but typically Charlie passed the ball out to make sure of the try. I remember thinking “just play your best and don’t make any mistakes”. So in part it was stressful to watch as a parent. 


We both remember throughout the game the sea of blue supporters all waving their flags, cheering, singing, united in support of TWRFC having the time of their lives. The atmosphere was just incredible. When the final whistle went the crowd went mad.  Then shortly after, we went down to the pitch side and Charlie came over for a congratulatory hug.  We felt immensely proud of him and the club that we have been involved in for probably the best part of 35 years.

There were lots of photos with different groups and when the crowd started to drift off after the medal and cup presentation it was lovely seeing lots of people you knew (even those you didn’t know were there!). I missed the clubhouse antics after the game as I had another longstanding commitment (bad parent) but I know Charlie’s dad had a brilliant evening in the clubhouse celebrating with so many  of the team and supporters who had travelled to the game. Charlie will say this was the best day of his whole young life so far.  A day to be treasured and remembered always with pride and joy.”

The (second) Parent – Andy Maynard
“I can remember arriving with my pink third team polo shirt on and running into most of the current 3rds at the gate looking like a solid pink phalanx which the players entered the stadium through. It was quite a sight. Then as we watched the players come out I can remember Alex looking as white as a sheet and thought he looked really nervous and hoped he would get an early touch to settle nerves.


Well within a couple of minutes we were down to 14 with a rather harsh yellow card for Lee Campion but firmly holding lots of the territory and finally got the first score from a number 8 pick up, by I believe Docco. That settled nerves and Alex got a clear break and we thought he was going to score but got nailed by their full back, a very good player and had the pleasure of hearing my father in law state that he is bound to get a try. Then at about fifteen minutes Lee Campion got past his wing and with only the full back to beat popped back inside to Alex who dotted down between the posts. Great cheers from the Maynard contingent and thumbs up from all around us.


The centre partnership with the Tasi Tila a big Aussie centre was working very well with Charlie Harding pulling the strings at fly half. Better than the commentator who extolled the strength and power of Alex and the speed of agility of Tasi Tila to the hilarity of all. The move of the game, that was forwarded to the try of the month, occurred towards the end of the first half when we were comfortably ahead. Tasi Tila popped a ball to Alex who bobbled it but managed to catch it and, while being tackled, popped it to Charlie Harding who was in support who then popped it to Lee to score. The Maynard contingent were buzzing and so were both the pink shirted thirds and about 9000 others wearing blue!

Alex didn’t come out for the second half and I didn’t realise at the time that he had had a head clash with Charlie Harding at the end of the first half and had come off worse and was in the bowels of Twickenham being stitched up. The opposition came back and scored two quick tries their full back again featuring heavily. Alex came back on about ten minutes onto the second half and TWRFC seemed to get back to a settled pattern and it was one way traffic from then on; Alex popping a ball to Hayden Pope when he could have scored himself being a highlight and Charlie Harding scored a cracking individual effort to round off a fine game at fly half.


With the final whistle Alex came up to see us and watching my father in law vaulting over seats to congratulate him is a sight I will never forget!!. Alex did as usual look quite a mess and was bleeding quite heavily from the mouth cut but was clearly very pleased with himself. A great day!

The next day Alex showed up at the TWRFC sevens and his dad stepped in to play as he was a bit broken, from the resulting celebrations, but that is another and less happy story!!!”


The Lino – Paul Robbins

“I woke up that day full of hope and expectation.  With our Twickenham suits on, Dad and I joined the Tunbridge Wells team on the bus to Twickenham…..” 
For the second in the series of Paul’s reflections go to:-

https://twrfc.com/news/memoirs-of-a-lino-part-ii/

The Supporter – Francesco Colangelo
“I was away for the semi final on a 50th birthday golfing weekend and walking up the 18th fairway on the phone to my wife after receiving regular updates “have we won – have we won, yes, no, yes yes yes” The news spread around our 8 players all affiliated to to the club and numerous beers were drunk that night in celebration. “We are going to Twickenham”

I remember the Football Club going to Wembley a few years before and this was the equivalent in rugby terms. The club needed to unite every player, supporter, mini, junior, sponsor and even the non rugby fans and get them to “Turn Twickenham Blue” The work behind the scenes was immense not only on the playing side but for the supporters. Hoodies, Polos, T shirts, flags, wristbands were ordered – pop up shops set up as the town got behind this great achievement. Then the organising of supporter coaches – that alone was a huge task. Our players and coaches became Local TV and Radio stars as the big day got closer.

I have been to Twickenham many times but this for me was already the most excited I had been pre-match. Myself and Steve Webb organised a 52 seater full of family, friends and kids. There was so much genuine excitement especially from those that had never been to HQ. I made the decision to try and enjoy the day and not drink too much which was a wise choice but sadly lasted 15 minutes as my first beer was handed to me. Oh well!

On arrival at Twickenham it was like a meeting of long lost friends. I seemed to know everyone. Past players making long trips to come and support and just friends from TW with no real interest in rugby just here for the day out. The picnics came off the coach and a base was set in the car park as the food and drink flowed before KO and the atmosphere built up. I can’t recall how I was feeling at the time, but I am sure it was just a mix of nerves and excitement.

We packed up the mess and headed to the ground with 30 minutes till KO, the noise and buzz getting louder…then the singing came as Tunbridge Wells Football Club supporters arrived in force with songs that will live in the memory for a long time. As we entered the stadium beers in hand the West stand was filling up nicely and there was blue and white everywhere. I sat down with friends and took in the atmosphere. I never dreamed that I would be able to see the club that I played for from the age of 16 at Twickenham. For a second I wished I was out there but that passed. It wasn’t about me it was about the club and the players that had just had the most amazing season.

It was time and the estimated 10,000 supporters that had travelled in blue and white started to cheer. The team came out, they looked focussed but they had a job to do against a St Benedicts side also unbeaten and not to be underestimated. As they lined up a tear or 2 dropped from my eyes…this was emotional! Then Kick off. We were outstanding, it was never in doubt as we carved up the pitch with speed and power in all areas. Nothing was left out there as the crowd joined our football friends in singing “stand up if you love the Wells”…”we are Royal we are Royal we are Royal Tunbridge Wells”…”oh when the Wells go marching in oh when the Wells go marching in”…My son called me from his uni as he was sitting an exam that morning and couldn’t be there he was cheering down the phone from the library watching the live stream – he was there in heart as were the many watching the stream from all over the world.

Our Opposition came back at us for 10 minutes but they could not stem the tide as our team in blue and white ran in tries from every corner of the pitch. We had won and created club history. The rest is a blur really. Lots of hand shakes and hugs, tears and laughter as more beer flowed. The coach home was full of song and the clubhouse back home was packed to the rafters. The headache in the morning was severe!

When people ask me what my favourite day at Twickenham was, without hesitation i reply “the day Tunbridge Wells RFC turned HQ blue”.


There is little more to add…..


#turnHQblue
#oneTWRFC


Graham Withers

Memoirs of a Lino – Part II

“I woke up that day full of hope and expectation.  With our Twickenham suits on, Dad and I joined the Tunbridge Wells team on the bus to Twickenham. I had my Lions tour flag (a Union Jack with the Tunbridge Wells RFC crest on it) made up but sadly it was too thick to hang on the bus. After a quick stop at the hotel, arriving at Twickenham was exciting seeing it up close and knowing we would enter through the famous gates.


After assisting the team with the allocation of passes, we entered the gates and what we saw was something that only international players experience usually. Having the 9,000 Intermediate Cup record TWRFC fans clapping us all in was absolutely amazing, and I will never forget them calling us all by name.Even though I didn’t have a pass to go to the changing rooms, I said to Dad “keep going” and helped take kit into the changing room and had to say to our New Zealand born players that they were sharing the same dressing room that the All-Blacks had won the World Cup in a few months prior in an attempt to try and inspire them. I considered hiding in the toilets during warm-up so I could sneak pitch side using a borrowed pass, but remembered Dad and I had Royal Box tickets courtesy of our excellent chairman. 


Heading out with the players and being invited to be in the team photo was unforgettable and that photo holds pride of place in the hall. While the players went to warm up, Dad and I headed upstairs to sample the excellent facilities Twickers had to offer. I was tempted to hang the flag off the edge of the Royal Box but realised I had left it on the bus and realised the RFU board members probably wouldn’t have appreciated that!  


The game got off to a bang with Lee being yellow carded without warning for a seemingly innocuous tackle, to which I couldn’t control my anger with some very un-Royal town behaviour of shouting “WHAT?!” several times. Thankfully my anger subsided as TWRFC took control and completely dominated with every player playing the best rugby I’ve ever seen them play in my 11 years as Touch Judge. Tries from Docco, Alex Maynard, Lee Campion, Fred Tila and Chaz Spence, excellent kicking from Hayden Pope and a drop-goal from Charlie Harding (which I couldn’t help but laugh when he did it). 


The lifting of the trophy was the icing on the cake and watching it back again and again with me in the background cheering always gives me butterflies knowing I was there and a part of the most successful season in the club’s history. It was also touching at the end of the post-match function where our captain Sean O’Connor paid tribute to the team and also singled me out for thanks, which I was almost moved to tears for his graciousness.”


Paul “Lino” Robbins

Home Nations Lockdown Challenge

As we move towards the sixth week of lockdown, TWRFC wanted to something as a club to support a local charity close to many hearts, Hospice in the Weald. Like many other charities, the lockdown has meant that vital sources of funding have stopped with shops closed and fundraising events cancelled for the foreseeable future.

Hospice in the Weald is also dealing with increased demand to support patients but also to do so under strict Covid-19 controls requiring PPE. Like all Hospices, Hospice in the Weald is not part of the NHS and although they do get a small amount of funding from the government the vast majority of the running costs are funded from charitable donations.

With the impact of increased demand, increased costs and reduced donations the club wanted to help Hospice in the Weald as they work on the front line of the pandemic giving patients a dignified death and supporting their wider families.

To do this we are throwing down the “Home Nations Lockdown Challenge”. The aim is to walk, run or cycle the equivalent of driving from our St Marks Clubhouse to “virtually” visit all four home nations stadiums – that’s 877 miles.

Volunteers will be asked to start their miles from Friday 8th May and encourage friends and family to sponsor them via our Just Giving page:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/twrfchomenationschallenge

To help the competition along we will be tracking the number of miles each age group/squad do – so sign up and see if you can get your team to the top of the league. Please don’t forget that if you are covering your miles outside, to only do so with members of your own household within the recommended time within lockdown restrictions.

Anyone who wants to volunteer should send the following details to Drew Raine at drewraine@hotmail.com:

  1. Name
  2. Age
  3. Age Group/Squad
  4. Mode: Walk, Run or Cycle
  5. Target miles you are setting yourself (this will help us see how close to the 877 target we are getting)

Sign up now and get ready for Friday 8th May

#oneTWRFC

Chairman’s update

Members and friends of TWRFC,

I thought it timely to provide an update on the club and the progress made this year. It’s a long update because we are a big and active club!

However, let me start by saying the world is presently gripped in a fight against Covid-19 which has had a significant impact on everyone’s lives. It puts many aspects of our lives into perspective and raises levels of appreciation for things we take for granted. We are truly in unprecedented times.

The Board have remained focused on the Club throughout the year, both its day to day operations and of course the longer-term future of the club. Below is a detailed update on all parts of the club before I look to the future:

The Youth section: Another very successful year for the Youth section with record membership numbers (621) and a great spirit across all the age groups. Some notable highlights: A very successful Mini’s festival held; Beamo (Under 6 Head Coach and present senior player) gets up and running with a huge 105 players in his U6’s age group;  First team player Ben Whale takes on Head Coach role of Under 14’s (#oneTWRFC), Despite the weather we KEPT training with new 3G locations sourced; Age groups keep the spirit alive in lockdown with remote sessions and fun videos.

To all the players: We are sorry the season ended prematurely but keep active, keep wearing the clubs colours with pride, we will be back before you know it!

The Thank-you’s are endless here, we have over 100 volunteers in this section (from coaches to DBS to Fixtures, parent helpers, to Refs etc etc). Thank-you one and all you are keeping the future of TWRFC very much alive and growing. Thanks to Laurence and Alex for Chairing the Youth and the Minis.

The Academy: As we started the season we had high hopes for the Academy and wanted to revamp it. It would be fair to say the revamp had a tricky start but ended on a real high.

Andy Child has taken on the lead role here and led the squad to stats of Played 7, WON 7 the last one taking them to a Kent Cup Final. It was also great to see Tui, Agy and Max Douch (First team players) playing such an active part in the training and supporting on match days (#oneTWRFC). Our DoR was also very active in supporting this success demonstrating his breadth of role. Well done to all the players, you are the future of the senior section and we look forward to seeing you at training soon.

Some good news for next year, we have a new sponsor for the Academy who is keen we invest further in this important transition into senior rugby.

Thank you to Andy and all the coaches, Jim, Tui and Agy.

The Ladies section: We are really keen to grow the ladies section and make sure TWRFC is the ‘Go-To’ club for ladies’ rugby. We have challenged Simon and the team to grow our Ladies membership and confirmed we are happy to invest to get that growth. So, to the successes: U18’s equalled last year’s national cup run and came 2nd in the County league; U15’s saw numbers grow and got on a good winning streak; U13’s won the county plate against stiff competition; U11 team created to expand the section; and membership numbers rise to 80.

Well done Simon and all the coaches. But also well done to all the players, you have a real sense of community and are the fastest growing section of the club.

The Senior Section: We have three very divergent parts of our Senior club: The Elite squad; The Social side; and of course the Vets.

The Elite squad has clearly had a good season, with a very honourable 6th position in the league. We were light upfront all season but Simon and Aston got the team working really well together and ground out some fantastic results. There was as-ever the odd game that slipped away from us but ‘The Wells’ way of playing was exhilarating to watch: Strong defence, well organised team structure and hugely exciting with ball in hand. Well done guys a fantastic effort and a pleasure to watch.

The second XV struggled this year for players, fixtures and results and is an area of focus for us. Also on that list of focus areas are player-retention and player-recruitment.

The Social side under the leadership of Andy Cunningham has operated well all season winning half their games. The number of players representing the 3rd XV was north of 50 which shows the depth of squad at this level. If everyone wanted to play every week we’d have a 4th XV back before you knew it!!

The Vets…….shall be remembered this year for their activities off the pitch! The lockdown videos have been amazing. Thank-you to Tommo and Tom for your hard work they have kept the spirit of the club alive in these hard times. Awesome.

Thanks to all those that pulled on the Blue and White shirts this year, thanks to Jim Scully and the coaching team, the Captains, the organisers, the helpers, the ref liaison/refs, the caterers, the bar staff etc etc and thank you to the one and only Lino. Thanks to Stu Montgomery for leading this area for the Board.

So lastly to the running of the club and the area I have focussed a lot of my time and effort upon to get us financially and structually on an even keel.

The Commercial team: All major sponsors are now contracted and most on multi-year agreements. They are regularly engaged with to ensure they feel part of our club. We have two new ‘tier 1’ sponsors for next year on multi-year contracts which help build our diversity of revenues. We are under no illusion that our ability to get new sponsors next year will be harder. Thanks to Simon Hughes, Steve Webb and Andre Van Zijl

The Events: After a hugely successful summer ball at the High Rocks we have lost our last two fundraising events to Covid-19. The Youth Ball is postponed to early October and the Player’s end of season dinner will now be delivered virtually. We also lost our VP’s lunch at the Spa. We did however have a hugely enjoyable ‘Brave the Shave’ event run by the Senior section with lots of monies raised for an incredibly worthy cause. Thanks to Sarah Raine, Fran, Michelle and many many others.

The Operations: As mentioned most sponsors are now contracted, all our 1st team players were contracted, our major supplies are actively managed with terms renegotiated, and we are doing some work to tidy up our Board structure. Martin Croker, Michelle Greenall and Tony Pawson have been immense here.

The Clubhouse: Alan and Kathy have kept the Bar well stocked, the match day lunches organised and the volunteers at hand, Martha has kept the Bacon cooking and Charmaine has kept the match teas consistently good. But Nick has overseen not only the maintenance of an ageing old clubhouse but also lots of small but important investment:

  • The new combined gym and physio room invested in and refreshed. Including new equipment.
  •  The interior sound system and external PA system has arrived (Thanks to Pete Gould for sponsoring)
  • The first XV changing room has been refreshed with shelving. The ground floor TWRFC street art arrives soon (Thanks to Countryside Properties).
  • The Café has arrived! A real improvement to the ground floor and to the feel of the Clubhouse.
  • Nick has recently had the ground floor completely painted and is working up some more decking outside the café.

Marketing/Press: An area awash with volunteers from Graham/Roger on match reports, to Drew/Michelle on marketing, Fran on programmes, Mac on videos, Michelle on instagram (so hip!), and Martin on the website. Not to mention Bruce’s brilliant photography each week.

The Future of the Club: You will all have seen our recent posts on how we wish to focus our attentions on future ground improvements. We have started to progress plans in this regard and will continue to keep you fully appraised as we reach key milestones.

Lastly and perhaps at this present time most importantly

The Finances:  Don has continued to keep us on the straight and narrow this year. We have added cashflow forecasts and forecasting tools to our armoury as we look to ensure we are financially tight and resilient to blips. Thank goodness we did and thank goodness we ended the year in a far stronger position financially than we started. We will provide a full update at our (Covid-19 delayed) AGM when we get to it but in the meantime I wanted to reassure all the members we are in a stable position. We ended the season with cash resources in the bank, with our reserved funds safely set aside, with no debt and with sufficient cash to see us through to next season despite the early finish. We have availed ourselves of all Covid-19 grants/support that is available to us but we have not taken any funds from the various debt facilities offered from either the RFU or elsewhere. We are financially resilient at present but our planning shows any persistent delay to the restart of the rugby season will have an early impact.

So in summary:

  • The Club is in good shape on the playing side
  • We have a growing youth and ladies section
  • We have a successful academy
  • We have a performing 1st XV
  • We have a socially active club
  • We are ever closer to our #oneTWRFC ambition
  • The number of volunteers are growing and making a difference
  • We are financially stable and operationally organised
  • We have direction and purpose for the future of St Marks.

Thank you to all our many volunteers and to everyone who keeps TWRFC at the heart of our Community.

COYW

Mike
Club Chairman
#oneTWRFC

TWRFC Families Step-up to Help Nourish Community Foodbank

TWRFC has a long standing partnership with Nourish Community Foodbank but with the “Lockdown” hitting our community hard members have stepped up to volunteer to support the team at Nourish.

“We were busy before the lockdown supporting over 7,000 people in crisis per year across the borough of Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge” said Operations Manager Dawn Stanford. “Since lockdown we have seen over a 100% increase in referrals and we have also been asked to be part of TWBC’s Frontline response team to COVID-19. At the same time as demand has increased, we have lost a lot of our usual food and monetary donation locations e.g. churches, schools and businesses plus we have had to work around many of our existing volunteers self-isolating due to age.”

Families from TWRFC have come forward to help weigh-in and sort donations, stack shelves, pack and deliver food parcels. Nourish are restricted to the number of volunteers that can be in the packing unit due to social distancing requirements. Volunteers have worked in household groups so they aren’t limited by social distancing and Nourish supplied gloves, aprons and sanitiser on site. Deliveries are managed by knocking on clients doors without the need for contact.

Here are just a couple of examples of TWRFC families supporting Nourish

The Weaver family have been out delivering food parcels:

“I’ve always had massive respect for Nourish Community Foodbank and the support it gives our community so when Dawn asked the parents of the U12s for drivers to help with deliveries, I was really pleased to be able to help out a couple of times a week” said Tam Weaver. “It is fantastic that Nourish were able to turn to the club for help to continue with their essential work during lockdown”

The Dexter family have also been out and about supporting deliveries:

Ele Dexter commented “We want to support our community in any way we can and volunteering for Nourish Community Foodbank seemed like a great way to do something good on a regular basis.”

The Raine family have been supporting weighing-in, sorting stock and deliveries:

“I was amazed how busy the team are, it’s easy to forget that even in an affluent area people are struggling and need support from organisations like Nourish” said Drew Raine “With lock down presenting even more challenges we wanted to help as much as we could and it’s great to see the wider TWRFC family supporting a community in need.”

For more information about the work of Nourish Community Foodbank and how you can donate or help, please go to:

www.nourishcommunityfoodbank.org.uk

or follow them on facebook @nourishcommunityfoodbank

A trip down the TWRFC memory lane – Part One

As we all continue to navigate the uncharted waters that is the Coronavirus pandemic, it is time to pick ourselves up by reflecting on the anniversaries of the two greatest days in the modern history of the club.


Next week I shall be reflecting upon the 4th anniversary of that incredible day when we won the Intermediate Cup and successfully managed to #turnHQblue in the process. 


In Part One, though, we go back three years to Saturday 29th April 2017 and the promotion play-off at Chingford. This game was to decide who would take the final spot at Level Five of the RFU pyramid for 2017/18 in the newly re-named London Premier division. To do this I have spoken to several of the people who were at the heart of the match – the player, the coach, the physio and the linesman (and this conversation has led to a “spin-off show”) and will re-play the match report too.


Firstly, let me provide some context. Having been promoted to London One South following our majestic, unbeaten, 2015-16 season, the objective at the start of the campaign was a credible showing with the hope (and a genuine ambition to go with it) of a top four finish. Indeed, this was where we looked like finishing as we sat 3rd with five games to go ahead of a trip to the impressive champions-elect Sidcup, who were still unbeaten at this stage after 21 games. Havant were ahead of us in 2nd and still mathematically catch-able but we felt we needed to win 4 of our remaining 5 games at least and even then the Hampshire team had only to win three of their remaining games to be out of reach. 


Defeat at Sidcup was not unexpected but what we hadn’t anticipated was the good news of Havant losing 15-7 at Chiswick, and to a side that were eventually relegated. However, when our worst performance of the campaign saw a home 12-17 loss to Brighton and news came through that our play-off rivals had secured a last minute 31-30 victory over CS Stags the pressure now seemed to be off. All we could do was ensure we won our last 3 games with full bonus points to maintain some pressure and hope that Havant slipped up twice…and we did know that their last game was likely to be a very tough trip to Sidcup.


To be fair, our run in was pretty straight-forward as we had two relegated teams to play before a home match against old rivals Maidstone. First up we thumped Gosport 5-52 and the coach journey home was made the much more enjoyable by the news that Havant had gone down 33-31 at Cobham. When we later heard they had missed a winning penalty with the last kick of the match we could be forgiven for wondering could the stars be aligning in our favour?


On the penultimate weekend we did what we had to do with an 85-0 win over Dover and even with Havant comfortably beating Chobham we knew we had a chance still to make the play-off match. April 22nd came with Havant on 98 points and the Wells on 95. We needed 5 points and for Havant to gather less than two at Sidcup…….and so it came to pass……Maidstone were demolished 46-14 at St Marks and our “contact” in South London gleefully relayed the news that Sidcup had beaten Havant 43-30 and planning began for the trip to Essex to play Chingford, runners up in London One North.


Saturday 29th April


As I was at St Marks running the Whiting & Hammond Sevens, Roger Clarke’s match report takes up the story:-

Whatever the result both Clubs had produced a great season and in the Wells case this was at the first attempt.

The away side saw Charlie Harding replace ever present Frank Reynolds (playing in trials to make the England Counties U 20 ‘s side) and saw Josh Crickmay added to a bench of 4.Within 8 minutes playing against a significant breeze Wells had conceded a penalty to go 3 points down and had lost second row Owain Withers to a twisted knee with Charlie Dagwell added to the back row and flanker Mike Hathaway moving into the engine room. Hayden Pope put Wells on the board with a well struck penalty as a result of an infringement when Withers was injured. 3-3.

With Wells finding the Chingford line speed giving them little room they then scored a fine try after good hands on the right- despite the narrow pitch – giving skipper Lee Campion the chance to stand- up his opposite number and score the try in the corner with Pope grazing the post against the breeze. 3-8 after 12 minutes.

It took Chingford another 2 minutes to claw back some of the deficit as despite parity or better in the scrummage and the edge through Christian Earle at the line out Wells continued to give a string of penalties away predominantly for offside for the rest of the half. No further score took place until the 30th minute as ferocious defence was the winner. However, on 30 mins Wells conceded another simple penalty converted by the Chingford full back who then a minute later, using the breeze slotted one over from inside his half to restore Chingford’s lead at 12-8. This remaining the score until half time.

The Wells halftime talk was all about composure and patience but Head Coach Matt Cook in his last game in charge would have been happy enough with this score against the wind.

The second half started with no changes and the first 20 minutes was characterised by a complete failure of the home line out being able to function to their advantage. Wells enjoyed better territory with the breeze and after a penalty to the corner and a maul Harding brought back memories of Twickenham 2016 with a well struck drop goal to bring the score to 12-11 48 minutes. At this stage the game was tense and tight with very few openings for either side as the defences dominated.

Wells continued to incur the displeasure of the referee and on 63 and 65 minutes the unerring boot of the Chingford full back put the home side 18-11 up.

The mood on the pitch had changed though and with the ‘pick and drive ‘ being employed and with Crickmay on the pitch the Wells build ups looked more solid. It took the pack until the 72nd minute to get the break they were looking for as Crickmay launched himself between legs and feet to get the touchdown which was converted by Pope 18-18. With full time close at hand and with Harding and Pope using the breeze to the corners Pope nudged Wells further in front on 77 minutes after a scrum infringement and at 18-21 the Wells supporters dared to see the win. Yet again after a Wells handling error in midfield Chingford broke away and were awarded another penalty to even the score in the 80th minute to level the scores at 21-21 Wells having conceded 7 successful penalty kicks most of which had been simple kicks and so to Extra time of two ten minute halves.

Wells got off to a flyer facing the wind yet again as within a minute of the start Hooker Jake Thompson latched onto a passing movement 30 metres out to twist turn roll and get over the line for a brilliant 3rd Wells try converted by Pope 21-28.

With the centre pairing of Dylan Barkas and Fionn McLoughlin making inroads in the middle gaps were opening up which Chas Spence was sending the backs into. Chingford had also lost a flanker to a yellow card for an offence on Thompson as he scored. Wells were dominating and after a penalty to the corner their rolling maul was used – not for the first time in the afternoon- to great effect as No 8 Nick Doherty was propelled over the line for Wells’ 4th try converted from the touchline by Pope for a fourteen point lead 21-35 at Halftime of extra time but by then Crickmay had been binned as well for a knock down in midfield.

If the crowd thought Chingford were finished they weren’t yet as they charged into Wells pinning them in their 22 and after 4 minutes of the second half after a long period of defence from Wells they drove over the line for a converted try 28-35.

There was still time for the two yellow carded players to return but it was McLoughlin’s turn to see a yellow as Wells went one down. As the second period of extra time was coming to an end Chingford forced themselves over the line in the corner. The fullback could not convert and it was all over. Had the conversion gone over Wells would still have been the victors on try count but all agreed this was the way to end a brilliant game from both teams and the right result for Wells as they now look forward for the first time in the Club’s history to National League Rugby next season and celebrate back to back promotions.Squad: Kyle McGarvie, Jake Thompson, Nick Blacklock, Stuart Nicholls, Josh Crickmay, Christian Earle, Owain Withers, Hayden Pengelly, Mike Hathaway, Charlie Dagwell; Chas Spence, Charlie Harding, Jake Jones, Adam Webb, Dylan Barkas, Fionn McLoughlin, Lee Campion, Hayden Pope.

Promotion secured to great celebrations at Chngford and back at St Marks. It made me wonder what memories some of the protagonists had…..

The Player – Owain Withers

“This was to be my biggest game in a Wells shirt as I was in my final year at university and playing rugby in Nottingham for the Twickenham season. I wasn’t surprised that my dad kept his word to run the Sevens rather then watch this game but my sister Eirlys was there representing the family. I was gutted to get injured so early after a dominant performance lol (my words… Ed!) . My memory isn’t amazing and I am a dreadful watcher of Wells games when I am not playing, but I think it was probably one of the most entertaining games the team played. The game was swinging both ways throughout and was very physical on a very hot day. Quite a narrow pitch so a lot of contact but we still played good expansive rugby.”

The Lino – Paul Robbins
“That match was one of the best I’ve ever seen because it had all the competitive things that make community rugby great but had the tactical play of an international.” Paul has quickly earned his place in TWRFC folklore and for more from Lino please see:-

https://twrfc.com/news/memoirs-of-a-lino-part-i/

The Physio – Russell Shingles

“The game was physically and mentally tough. The boys played to every ounce of soul they had. I can still see them becoming more and more fatigued as the game was going, hanging on the side line hoping no major injuries would happen. Unfortunately Owain’s was one! 
As the game went in to extra time I was helping to make sure the players were hydrated and focused on what they could do, to look after themselves. It seemed like the game went on for an age and then when it got to the end I felt so proud of the team, honoured to be a part of the day and definitely had a little tear and lump in the throat! So proud. They gave everything.” 


And the last word goes to the man who made it all happen……


The Coach – Matt Cook

The season until this point had been a bit of a strange one, and the conclusion of it against Chingford was to prove no different to the madness that had been unfolding around us each week. Throughout the season we were in with a chance of promotion one week and then out of it again the next week. To say the ‘run in’ really didn´t go our way would be an understatement. However, somehow, against the odds a battered and broken squad managed to defy it all just one more time with a match that was surely the perfect microcosm of the season.

For me, this one match summed up perfectly how the team and indeed the club had evolved over the previous few seasons. No longer were players content to take second place on match days, no longer did club members and supporters turn up expecting the team to put up a good fight before losing, no longer did anyone associated with the club think we were just a small town rugby club.

The match and subsequent victory against Chingford, as glorious as it was, was so much more than just another win or promotion. It was the day the club to a man stood up and said, “we are good enough and we are here to stay”. Ambitions had changed and rightly so! Vamos Wells. Cookie.

Graham Withers 28th April 2020