This Saturday 23rd November:

Fixtures this Saturday 23rd November:

1st XV – Home to Bedford Athletic RFC – 2.30pm kick off

2nd XV – Away to Westcombe Park 2s – 2pm kick off

3rd XV – Away to Sheppey 2s – 2.30pm kick off


There is a Ladies lunch at The Spa this Saturday so no formal lunch at the club.  If you would like to attend the Ladies Lunch there are a few places left at £35/head for 3 courses.  Please contact Kathy Skinner to book.

Our lunch and match day sponsors this week are Wood and Pilcher and The Spa Hotel 


Last Week’s results

 Tring RFC 10 – TWRFC  22

Tring RFC 2s  35 –  TWRFC 2s XV 7

Gravesend 4s 26 – TWRFC 3s 22

Match report – Tring 10 Tunbridge Wells 22

After last week’s drawn local derby against Sevenoaks, Tunbridge Wells were on the road to Hertfordshire to play a Tring side who have been one of the most consistent teams in this league in recent years. The Dorian Williams Sports Ground has not been a very happy hunting ground for the men from Kent but with the hosts languishing in 11th this season there were high hopes of a more positive return on this visit.

For the first time in what seems like a very long autumn this was a fine Saturday weather-wise and with no wind and dry ground there could be no excuses based on the conditions. The pitch is more or less flat apart from a very pronounced slope into one corner and Wells were defending the “sledging hill” (as our esteemed club photographer described it) in the first half.

Wells were forced into several changes due to injury and work commitments. A debut was given to ex-Brighton scrum half Alex Mason but the rest of the backs remained the same with Harvey Colangelo retaining his wing place after an impressive first cap. In the forwards Carl Straeche came back in at prop following Kamil Wiecaszek’s unfortunate injury and Charley Smith had earned his recall at lock which saw Ben Whale move to flanker. The ever-popular Josh Hawkins returned from his own injury absence as a replacement alongside Chris Brown and these two, together with the third substitute Ollie Allman, were to make a significant contribution from the bench.

It was the home team who were first out of the traps taking advantage of some poor defensive kicks. On 5 minutes Tring secured line-out ball and after a strong rolling maul they found themselves in the Wells 22, and then two more phases of play saw winger Sam Barns cross for a try that was converted by Tom Newton. 7-0.

This poor start did not seem to upset the visitors though.Centre George Montgomery was to have a highly influential game and after a strong carry the ball was moved to outside half Frank Reynolds who kicked to make a good territorial gain. Further pressure soon brought a penalty which Reynolds slotted on 9 minutes.7-3.

The Wells set-piece has been a cause for concern at times but against a much significantly bigger Tring pack this was to be a much improved performance. The front row of Tui Tauaika, Stuart Nicholls and Straeche more than held its own in the scrums and with Tauaika assuming throwing duties the line-out was also a better source of good quality possession. Tring broke through some weak defence (a very rare occurrence to be fair) but Nick Doherty was extremely strong both in his covering tackle and an ensuing carry that brought about a clearing penalty. 

Agy Eukaliti had a powerful carry and flanker James Pancaldi showed unexpected kicking skills to gain territory and the pressure built by possession saw a home second row penalised for an illegal clear-out. He also received a yellow card to compound his misdemeanour. The attacking line-out saw clean middle ball secured but it was disappointing when the ball was lost in contact and cleared. However, it did not find touch and Wells were not to be denied. Montgomery took a great line in the counter-attack and was able to release in form winger Max Hobbs into space to score a try virtually under the posts. With Reynolds slotting the conversion Wells now had a lead that they were not to lose. 7-10 on 26 minutes.

A powerful Whale catch and run from the restart reinforced the momentum switch and earned a penalty. Another clean line-out saw good attacking ball and when Montgomery and Hobbs connected again it looked like the winger might bag a brace of tries, only to be denied by a great covering tackle. Skipper Ryan Taylor-Dennehy made a half-break to maintain pressure and when Hobbs was taken out off the ball the penalty was kicked to the corner. Eukaliti, Smith and Nick Doherty drove close to the line only to be denied. However, when the ball was moved wide Colangelo was put into space to dive in at the corner for his first try at this level. The tough conversion was missed but it was now 7-15 on 38 minutes. 

Both teams tried to play ambitious rugby throughout and Tring earned another penalty and an attacking line-out deep into injury time. Unlike last week, though, Wells were able to avoid a late score when Eukaliti stole the ball and half time was reached with the score 7-15.

The key questions now were would the Wells front five remain strong against their bigger opponents and would they have the tactical nous to use the slope advantage and see the game out. The answer to both was a resounding “yes” but it also took a herculean defensive effort at times to hold out a very determined home team.

An untidy knock on by Tring from the kick off handed Wells excellent field position, however, realising the importance of the next score the opening 10 minutes of the second period can best be described as frantic. Showing good ambition Tring counter-attacked from deep in their own half after a Wells knock-on, and with the ball going through numerous pairs of hands they went deep into the visitors 22 before scrambling defence earned the men from Kent a scrum just 10 metres from their own line. Although the ball was cleared the home team were still in the ascendancy and when a Reynolds kick was charged down under pressure they earned a penalty for a high tackle. This was directly in front of the posts and Newton slotted it from 30 metres. 10-15 on 51 minutes.

This hosts were on top at this stage as Wells made some errors with poor kicks and imprecise passing. Starved of possession Wells had to re-focus and defend for all their worth. A Tring line-out saw them build through 15 phases before Wells were able to force a knock-on via a big Josh Hawkins tackle, who had now replaced the hard-working Smith. The lock should be pleased with his defensive shift. The ball was cleared but Tring were still camped in Wells territory. Another series of Tring phases moved into double-figures but the Wells defensive line, well marshalled by Whale and Mike Doherty was holding firm. The centre had taken several heavy blows and he was now replaced by Allman on 67 minutes who went to 15 with Taylor-Dennehy moving to centre .

A good Montgomery kick finally released the pressure but sadly despite stealing the line-out ball it was knocked on to give Tring a scrum 30 metres from their own line. This was to prove a crucial moment in the match as the home full back made a scintillating 40 metre break and just as it looked like a try was inevitable it was Colangelo who had covered the ground best to intercept the pass. Superb defensive work. Brown now entered the fray for Pancaldi.

Wells were now playing the slope to their advantage and a raking Montgomery kick saw Tring pinned back and an attacking Wells line-out 7 metres away. The ball was stolen but when Tring were tackled behind their own line the visitors now had an attacking 5 metre scrum. The front row were turning in a great shift (playing the whole 80 minutes) and they produced solid ball. After a series of midfield phases the ball was fed out by Mason and quick hands transferred it to Allman who was lurking on the wing and dived in for the score. An excellent Reynolds conversion from out wide made it 10-22 on 76 minutes.

Tring are a spirited side and attacked again but with the Wells defence now in an even more determined mood they were not to get the losing bonus point. With Allman’s trusty boot added to the kicking armoury the visitors were able to play a sensible territorial game (with two excellent kicks from the replacement) and see time out for the win. 

Against a very physical side this was a result that could have gone the other way. However, significant progress is evident from this time last season when games such as this were all too often lost and Simon Whatling’s men should be very proud of this performance. Their ambition with ball in hand is invigorating and when it is coupled with such a herculean defensive effort then there is much to applaud in the work of the men from St Marks. 

This week Wells (5th) host 9th placed Bedford Athletic with a 2.30pm kick off at St Marks.

Squad:  Ryan Taylor-Dennehy (Capt); Harvey Colangelo,Mike Doherty (Ollie Allman), George Montgomery, Max Hobbs; Frank Reynolds, Alex Mason; Tui Tauaika, Stuart Nicholls, Carl Straeche, Agy Eukaliti, Charley Smith (Josh Hawkins), Ben Whale, James Pancaldi (Chris Brown), Nick Doherty.

Wells Second XV also travelled to Tring and it was heartening to see popular centre Matt Spicer score a try on his return (converted by Lucas Scully) in a 35-7 defeat. The Third XV played at Gravesend and were unfortunate to lose 26-22 on the last play of the game despite tries from Simon Waymont, Rob Mitchell, skipper Andrew Cunningham and Nick Baldock. Jack Beaman slotted one conversion.

Elsewhere in the LeagueWimbledon stretched their lead to six points (sitting on 49) after a 41-24 home win over an apparently resurgent Brighton, who picked up the try bonus point. The gap back to the pursuers was increased by CS Stags’ stunning 26-27 win at Rochford Hundred. The Essex club are on 43 points but have slipped to third, on games won, after Guernsey joined them via a hard-fought 29-34 bonus-point win at Bedford Athletic (Wells’ next opponents). Hertford seem to have put their recent blip behind them with a convincing 7-31 win at Sidcup, which has taken them to 31 points. We remain fifth on 29, ahead of Dorking who moved to 26 points after an emphatic 21-55 “derby” win at Guildford. Sevenoaks took the honours at a muddy Knole Paddock with a 27-17 victory over London Irish Wild Geese to also move to 26. Sidcup slip to 8th on 25 and there is now a nine point gap to Bedford Athletic and CS Stags on 16. The Wild Geese and Tring come next on 14 ahead of Brighton on 10 and Guildford on 7.

The bottom two meet next week which is already looking like a “must win” game for both sides whilst 4th versus 1st (Hertford v Wimbledon) is another notable game. It will also be interesting to see how resilient Rochford will prove to be as they travel to Dorking’s Kiln Field, never an easy place to go to.

Graham Withers

This Saturday 16th November


Fixtures this Saturday 16th November

1st XV – Away to Tring

2nd XV – Away to Tring

3rd XV – Away to Gravesend IV

All 2.30pm Kickoffs 

There is a coach to Tring this weekend but spaces are limited. If you would like a seat please contact Michelle

We have the ladies lunch on Saturday 23rd November sponsored by Wood and Pilcher and The Spa Hotel. The 3 course lunch is £35/head (not including entry to the game).  Please contact Kathy Skinner to book spaces.

Last weekend’s results:

Tunbridge Wells 15   Sevenoaks 15

Tunbridge Wells 2s  0   Sevenoaks 2s  24

Old Gravsendians 2s   0  Tunbridge Wells 3s  24


Honours even…just…Tunbridge Wells 15 Sevenoaks 15

When this season’s London & South East Premier League fixtures were released it is fair to say this was the one most Tunbridge Wells supporters scanned through to find. It was a shade over three years since the “A21 Derby” had taken place at St Marks and both clubs were looking forward to resuming a strong, but very amicable, rivalry as Wells and Oaks have bonds of friendship both on and off the pitch.

Sevenoaks will have been delighted with how they have started their first campaign at National Level Five coming in to this game.Their four wins from eight games was a solid foundation to build upon and they sat comfortably mid-table in 8th on 19 points, whilst Wells were in 5th just four points ahead on 23. .

The last twice the teams met at St Marks were in September 2015 and December 2016, and if history told us anything it would be that this clash will be too close to call. These games saw the match settled by just one score with Wells triumphing 11-6 and 10-3 respectively. Indeed, as a portent of things to come the 2015 match report included the passages: “a real war of attrition played in typically blustery winter conditions at St Marks” and “the final quarter was all Sevenoaks…and with seconds to go they found themselves within touching distance of the line”. And then the report in 2016 made reference to “a proper old-fashioned arm wrestle” and “a superb Reynolds kick” late on. The afternoon was, therefore, to be a case of deja-vu to some extent.

Tunbridge Wells were able to field a relatively settled, if depleted, squad. One change in the backs saw a First XV debut on the wing for Harvey Colangelo, a genuine home-grown talent having played his way through the ranks from the under 6s. The young man was to look very much at home on first appearance at this level – surely just the first of many to come. In the forwards the only change was the return of Charley Smith as a substitute.
Sadly for the players (and the crowd of c300) the weathermen (weather people?) got their forecast spot on as the crisp, blue skied morning, gave way to a damp (and eventually very dark) afternoon as the rain started minutes before kick-off and then persisted throughout. This was always likely to be a physical encounter, especially given the underfoot conditions, and both teams were pleased to have referee Steven Randall in the middle – he is widely recognised as the leading Kent Society referee at this level and his understanding of the local rivalry gave him a valuable additional insight into the game that was to unfold.

Wells kicked off playing down the St Marks slope in the first half. Despite the very testing conditions the game started at a frenetic pace, and to be fair to the players the speed hardly relented throughout. Both teams looked to use a combination of a kicking game for territory, mixed with an ambition to try and move the ball wide when they had it. However, this was to be a game where defences were dominant and the most significant contributions were to come from the respective forward packs. The larger Oaks pack would have hoped for set-piece dominance but, at least initially, the set-scrum saw parity. Whilst the scrum superiority was to ebb and flow to a certain extent, the visitor’s line-out had a clear advantage and this fed into a dominant rolling-maul. A rugby scholar (well me actually!) once said that “a rolling maul, done well, is a thing of beauty” and for the aesthete old-school forwards in attendance Oaks were to provide something of a master-class in this department.

A good George Montgomery kick gave Wells some early territory after some fine defensive work by Colangelo. Soon after, Sevenoaks outside half Tom Simmonds looked to have created space for his side to attack on 10 minutes but Wells were relieved to receive a penalty for obstruction. Shortly afterwards the home team lost newly capped Polish international prop Kamil Wiecaszek to what looked a serious knee injury, with player-coach Aston Croall replacing him. This was terribly unfortunate for the popular player, especially given the high of last week’s national debut.

For Wells the second rows Agy Eukaliti and Ben Whale were already getting through a lot of work but when the home team seemed to be building some pressure Oaks flanker Matt McRae managed to steal the ball. Wells were marginally the better team in the first half but were finding it difficult to get though the Oaks defensive line. In-form winger Max Hobbs and skipper Ryan Taylor-Dennehy were both looking to create space and Wells finally had an attacking foothold with a line-out 20 metres out after Oaks were caught offside. Although this was disrupted, home flanker James Pancaldi did fine work to secure the ball and Reynolds was able to release his dangerous back-line. After a series of drives it looked inevitable that Taylor-Dennehy would score as he took an outside arc against one of the visitor’s forwards. That this was former Wells hooker Scott Sedgwick removed this inevitability though and he produced an outstanding tackle to haul the full back down.

Determined defence held Wells at bay but only at the expense of a penalty. Having shown strength in the last scrums Wells opted for another now and a huge drive saw Oaks shunted backwards at a rate of knots. As Nick Doherty went to collect the ball the scrum popped up and was wheeled illegally giving referee Randall little option but to award a penalty try. Sedgwick then received his (sadly) habitual yellow card in these games  as Wells took the lead on 26 minutes. 7-0.

Montgomery and Taylor-Dennehy kicks again provided good field position for the town’s team as they sought to gain a fuller advantage from playing down the hill. However, the ball was lost from a line-out and driven up-field by Oaks’ robust number eight Fred Richardson and McCrae. This led to a penalty 10 metres into the home team’s half. A kick to touch followed and the ensuing maul seemed to be moving inexorably towards Wells line before it was held up and turned over. However, the respite was temporary as Oaks then pushed Wells off their own scrum earning a penalty, to the vocal delight of the significant travelling support. Full back Tom Gray comfortably slotted the shot at goal from 20 metres to make it 7-3 on 35 minutes.

Wells again switched the re-start and defensive indecision saw a knock-on and an attacking scrum. Wells had the bit firmly between their teeth now and Tui Tauaika, Mike Doherty and Whale drove at the heart of the Oaks defence. Eddie Croft then moved the ball to the right and Montgomery fed the predatory Hobbs who had come off his left wing to score the try. Reynolds did not get hold of the conversion but it was now 12-3 on 38 minutes.

However, there was still to be a lot of rugby to play in the half.  Sevenoaks were awarded a penalty at the re-start and with their impeccable line-out sensed another rolling-maul opportunity. The ball was secured and moved forward but Wells dug in and in holding the ball up they were awarded a scrum just 10 metres from their line. Under pressure at the base, Nick Doherty worked hard to clean up and secure ball for Reynolds’ exiting kick. Time was nearly up at the interval when Reynolds sent a booming 40 metre kick into Oaks territory. However, from the line-out Oaks produced a fine attack which saw Richardson rampaging up the left wing to half-way. His ambitious kick ahead was blocked by Colangelo and and turned over. However, when Taylor-Dennehy was penalised for holding on at his own 10 metre line Oaks sensed one last opportunity to narrow the lead. 

Once again the weapon of choice was the maul and it took illegal means to halt it just 8 metres short. Unsurprisingly, the option of another line-out and maul was the decision as Wells were now having great difficulty in dealing with it. This time it could not be stopped and it was flanker Josh Baldock who came up with the ball after 10 (correctly) added minutes. The tough conversion was missed but it was all to play for now at half time. 12-8. 

If Wells were the better team in the first half, then the second period definitely belonged to the men from Knole Paddock. Their industrious back-row of McRae, Baldock and Richardson got the better of the breakdown and Sevenoaks would have taken the journey home up the A21 ruing their luck in not having bagged the win.

Time and again Oaks looked to use their highly effective rolling maul to attack and it took tenacious defence coupled with, perhaps, a lack of Oaks precision when most needed to keep Wells in the game. As well as the line-out supremacy Oaks were now getting the edge in the scrums too so it is to the credit of the boys from St Marks that they hung in without really threatening the Oaks try-line for any sustained periods.

On 47 minutes a crucial Whale intervention turned over the ball when Oaks were gaining momentum and he carried it forward earning a penalty. A quick tap and run by Wells failed to relieve the pressure and when Montgomery was penalised for playing the Oaks scrum half rather than the ball another Oaks attacking maul looked likely. However, thankfully for Wells indiscipline from Oaks prop Dan Power saw him sent to the sin bin, and the penalty reversed, for barging Montgomery after the referee’s whistle had been blown, he having taken umbrage at the Wells’ centre’s actions. Smith now replaced Chris Brown for Wells. 

Sevenoaks were using a sensible and pragmatic kicking game pinning Wells back and it took good tackles from the likes of Stuart Nicholls, Colangelo, and the outstanding Whale to keep them at bay. However, it felt inevitable that Sevenoaks would score next and this they did after an hour. Mike Doherty was penalised for a careless high tackle on halfway and this provided another opportunity for a kick to touch and attacking line-out on the right wing. Josh Pettet rose high again to secure Sedgwick’s throw 25 metres out and immediately the maul moved forward. Wells were warned but they came in offside and collapsed it. Another penalty was awarded and this time it was Wells who were down to 14 men as Whale received a yellow card. 

Why fix what isn’t broken? Oaks opted for another line-out and again the maul was set. 3 metres out it went to ground and Randall signalled a penalty advantage. Perhaps Wells relaxed a shade pending the next line-out assault but instead of settling for this the visitors moved the ball to Simmonds and the outside half cleverly spotted space in behind the Wells back-line. He chipped through into the home dead ball area and Oaks centre Leighton Ralph was first to the ball to dot down under the posts. Gray popped the conversion over and it was now deservedly 12-15 to Sevenoaks after 63 minutes.

Wells have had to show great determination and a positive attitude already this season and it was again the case that they needed to draw upon this resolve now. Tauauike, Eukaliti and the younger Doherty brother kept driving forward but Oaks still seemed to have the upper hand. Once more they had field position for an attacking maul but this time the ball was lost forward and a fine Taylor-Dennehy clearance kick relieved the pressure. Whale returned from the sin bin and the experienced Ollie Allman also came on for Colangelo, who should be highly satisfied with his debut. 

On 73 minutes it was a fine kick and chase from Allman which saw Wells back in Oaks territory from which they earned a penalty. Being just out of his points kicking range Reynolds sent the ball to the 22 metre line for an attacking Wells line-out. The ball was untidy but Montgomery and Taylor-Dennehy rescued it and despite strong defence the home team secured a scrum 35 metres out. Oaks had taken off powerful prop Charlie Naismith and sensing an opportunity to attack the set-piece messrs Tauaika, Nicholls and Croall shoved the opposition backwards and earned a penalty. Instead of the tough shot at goal into the breeze Wells opted for a kick to touch and a line-out. This time the ball was gathered safely and when the visitors were penalised for not releasing at the ruck 20 metres out Reynolds took the opportunity to level the scores striking the ball clean and true. 77 minutes played and it was 15-15.

The last 12 minutes (there was another 9 added minutes this half with 5 of them under penalty advantage) was played in the darkest playing conditions many can remember at St Marks. It really was gloomy, and with Wells spending most of it in their own half fending off waves of Oaks possession, there was an ominous sense of “doom” to go with the gloom. Team spirit , though, is something this team has in spades and they had to show this now to stand steadfast. Oaks re-found their scrum edge to earn a penalty but with the difficult kicking conditions making it too tough for Gray, they put their confidence in the maul ‘machine’ one last time. Two further penalties were awarded and now a line-out was set just 7 metres out. The maul inched forward this time as the St Marks’ forwards gave their all to hold it back and when it went to ground it was the attacking team who were penalised for not releasing at the ruck that followed. Echoes of 2015 and time was up.

Honours were even on the scoreboard but there is no doubt that it is Tunbridge Wells who will have been the happier with the shared spoils. A fierce game, full of commitment and desire, which was discussed long into the evening by friends and ‘foe’ alike. Thoughts also turned to the re-match at Knole Paddock on 22nd February.

Next week Wells (5th) travel to Hertfordshire to take on 11th placed Tring for a 2.30pm kick off and there will be a coach going from the club for supporters who want to travel.

Squad:  Ryan Taylor-Dennehy (Capt); Harvey Colangelo (Ollie Allman),Mike Doherty, George Montgomery, Max Hobbs; Frank Reynolds, Eddie Croft; Tui Tauaika, Stuart Nicholls, Kamil Wiecaszek (Aston Croall), Agy Eukaliti, Ben Whale, Chris Brown (Charley Smith), James Pancaldi, Nick Doherty.

Wells and Oaks Second XVs also faced off at St Marks in the Invicta League and it was the more experienced visitors who took the win 0-24. However, to complete the symmetry on scores Wells “Social” (3rd) XV had an impressive 24-0 win at Old Gravesendians II. Club stalwart Simon Waymont scored two tries, whilst Tom Theobald and Jack Beaman also crossed the line. “Veteran” Nick Baldock slotted two conversions.

Elsewhere in the League

Wimbledon stretched their lead to three points winning 16-27 at Dorking. They sit on 44 ahead of Rochford Hundred on 41 who had their own ‘arm wrestle’ at lowly Guildford before a 0-12 win. Guernsey’s 33-7 bonus-point home victory over Tring (our opponents next week) keeps them hot on their tail with 38 points. As predicted here a few weeks ago, these three are now well clear of Hertford who jump from 7th to 4th on 26 points having defeated Bedford Athletic 29-7. We remain in 5th one point back and ahead of Sidcup on points difference after they had a “terrible day at the office” in losing 41-3 at bottom side Brighton. It just goes to illustrate the standard in this league and emphasise the fact that there are no easy games if your level of performance dips. Dorking drop to 7th and Sevenoaks remain 8th, both on 21 points. In the remaining game London Irish Wild Geese beat CS Stags 17-6 to move 9th on 14 points, alongside Bedford Athletic and Tring in 10th and 11th. Stags occupy the first relegation spot (yes, I think it is time to start thinking about these things…) on 11 points with Brighton’s stunning win moving them to 9 points and two above Guildford who now drop to the foot of the ladder.

Graham Withers

This Saturday 9th November

Last Saturday was a fixture break for all teams so no results to report.

Fixtures this Saturday 9th November:

1st XV – Home to Sevenoaks RFC – 2.30pm kick off

2nd XV – Home to Sevenoaks RFC  – 12.30pm kick off

3rd XV – Away to Old Gravesendians II – 2.30pm kick off


The curtain raiser this week sees our under 9s take on Sevenoaks under 9s so this will be a big day for all sections of the club.

There is a social in the evening …. beer pong is returning and the fancy dress call is Superheroes.  Prize for the best outfit and a fine for the worst.  Teams of 2 and names to Stu or Monty by Thursday 7th November.



Flashback Two – Tunbridge Wells 10 Sevenoaks 3 (Saturday 10th September, 2016).

Here is our the promised look back at the last meeting between Wells and Oaks. Both teams had been promoted to London One South from London South East Two at the end of the previous season…..

“The first A21 “Derby” of the season was a typically competitive match between two clubs who are fierce rivals on the pitch, yet good friends off it. Indeed, the tone was set by a hard-fought curtain raiser between the under 15 Ladies sides from both clubs.

Wells were forced to make some changes to their squad following injuries collected at Maidstone last week, and handed competitive debuts to wing John Rumsey, hooker Kyle McGarvie and centre Charlie Dagwell from the bench. The were faced with a much-changed Sevenoaks squad who have recruited well over the summer and who had kicked off with a 47-0 win over Gosport in their opening match under the guidance of new head coach Adam Bowman.

Despite the unseasonal weather conditions a healthy crowd was in attendance at St Marks and saw the home team kick off playing up the hill but with the strong south-westerly wind behind them. Rain clouds threatened ominously but the first 30 minutes were dry before the skies opened.

An excellent early tactical kick from outside half Frank Reynolds put Wells on the front foot and they were to spend most of the opening quarter camped in the Sevenoaks half. Several times they stretched the visitors and looked as though they might score but well-structured and tenacious defence kept the hosts at bay. One particularly good Reynolds break seemed likely to bring a try but Sevenoaks remained resolute and were able to clear just as it looked like an attacking Wells scrum would push them over the line.A lack of precision and patience had been evident at Maidstone and a similar accusation could perhaps be made again during this period.

There is more to Sevenoaks than hard tackling though and as the game moved into the second quarter scoreless they came into the match in an attacking sense. After a box kick was fumbled by Wells an attacking line-out was halted illegally and Sevenoaks’ Ben Adams was given a difficult penalty shot on 23 minutes. His kick struck a post though and was well cleared by Wells. The visitors were soon back in the home 22 metre area and with an edge in the set-scrum they launched a series of attacks. The Wells defence has also been powerful in the past 13 months and it needed to be during this period. It was also a shade unconventional when loose-head prop Nick Blacklock kicked it 40 metres down the ground to relieve the pressure, if only temporarily.

A steal by ex-Wells product Scott Sedgwick put Oaks back in possession and when the visitors did try to kick clear the visitors were very content to run it back at the boys from St Marks. Another former Wells player Jamie Owen beat three men before releasing prop Dan Power but he was superbly tackled by opposite number Chris Goodyer. The resultant ruck brought a penalty and a kick to touch. The ensuing maul was just held up but as it looked like Sevenoaks would open the scoring, Mike Hathaway and McGarvie combined for a crucial turnover.

The game was a very tight and attritional one, much more reminiscent of the pre-Christmas clash at St Marks last season when Wells won by a single score than the wide-margin victories in the League and Cup at The Paddock in the spring. For Wells Matt Cook, Andy Burgess, James Lineham and Nick Doherty were much to the fore in defence and driving the ball, whilst Charlie Harding and Reynolds were at the heart of the best attacks. The game opened up following some errant kicking and Wells outside centre Alex Maynard almost escaped on the outside but was hauled down by his opposite number.

On 37 minutes Sevenoaks were penalised for not using their arms in the tackle and once referee Nikki O’Donnell had calmed the players down following a skirmish Reynolds fired a superb 40 metre touch kick. Sadly for the home support the line-out was lost but Wells were finishing the half strongly and when Oaks were ruled offside Reynolds stroked over the 30 metre penalty kick for a 3-0 half time lead.

The second half kicked off in heavy rain that was to be a feature for the rest of the game. The visitors must have been delighted to turn around just a penalty behind given the wind they now had at their backs. Indeed, the wind was now so  increased in strength that Wells decided that the best way of exiting their own territory was through carrying the ball rather than kicking. The danger with such a strategy is what happens should the accuracy of pass and contact be found wanting and pressure from Oaks soon forced an attacking 5 metre scrum. However, excellent defence from Hayden Pope and Rumney resisted the first Sevenoaks attack but they still looked likely to score only to spill the ball over the line. A fine Chaz Spence clearance then relieved the pressure.

Not long after, Reynolds looked to have escaped for a run in to the line after Maynard had gathered a kick ahead but the referee, who had a good game, was well-positioned to adjudge a forward pass. On 50 minutes Sevenoaks drew level. A strong Simon Humble run saw Wells penalised and the impressive Adams converted a 40 metre penalty. 3-3.

A scrum infringement saw Adams granted another penalty shot soon afterwards but from halfway his kick fell just short. On 56 minutes Hayden Pengelly came on for Burgess as the rain fell at its heaviest. 

The game was about to enter its key phase. A sharp Pope counter-attack was thwarted on the halfway line but illegally so and Owen was sent to the sin bin for playing the ball on the floor. Whilst the attacking line-out was halted by an accidental offside, Wells soon had the ball again and Sevenoaks were penalised at the ruck. As Spence endeavoured to up the tempo with a quick tap, he was obstructed by Sedgwick and the referee acted decisively to dispatch him to the bin too. With Sevenoaks down to 13 for 4 minutes surely this was the home team’s best opportunity?

Sevenoaks are a resolute unit and managed to earn a scrum penalty to relieve the pressure but Wells were now, unsurprisingly, very much on the front foot. A Doherty chip through nearly released skipper Lee Campion, whilst Pope and Harding also combined to almost set the captain free.for Wells Jake Thompson came on for Hathaway and Dagwell replaced an injured Pope which saw Maynard move to full back, whilst Owen returned for the visitors to bring them to 14 players. 

An attacking scrum saw the home team set up a series of “pick and go” plays before Goodyer forced his way over from close range for a crucial try on 75 minutes and with a superb Reynolds conversion drilled low into the wind the home team were back in the lead. 10-3.

Sedgwick now returned and Oaks came right back at Wells forcing a knock-on and a dangerously positioned scrum. Much to the relief of the home support a free-kick was awarded for an infringement and Pengelly and Doherty carried the ball to safety.  

With 5 minutes of injury time still to play it needed an excellent Spence kick to get play into the Oaks half and soon when the returning Burgess was taken out in the air at a line-out, the home side were able to turn the screw. As time ran out Sevenoaks were forced to try and run the ball out but swarming defence halted them and it looked as though Thompson had scored when a ball went loose behind the line. The official was unsighted but time was up and in all honesty Oaks deserved at least their losing bonus point.

Two wins from two is exactly what Wells were targeting and to have achieved it without reaching last season’s high standards means they have got to third in the league whilst having a lot to work on still. If the first two matches are any measure of what lies ahead then this is going to be the anticipated fiercely competitive season. It continues next week when Wells travel to Southampton to take on an unbeaten Tottonians team for the very first time, and they now sit in second place in the league after a 55-5 win in their last game. It is a 3pm kick-off and the club will be taking a coach for players and supporters.

Squad: Hayden Pope; Lee Campion (Capt), Alex Maynard, Charlie Harding, John Rumsey; Frank Reynolds, Chaz Spence; Nick Blacklock, Kyle McGarvie, Chris Goodyer, Andy Burgess, Matt Cook, James Lineham, Mike Hathaway, Nick Doherty. Subs: Jake Thompson, Hayden Pengelly, Charlie Dagwell.”

Graham Withers

“A21 Derby” Saturday 9th November- Match Preview.

This Saturday (9th November) sees Tunbridge Wells host the first “A21 Derby” of this season’s London South East Premier League campaign.

The last twice the teams met at St Marks were in September 2015 and December 2016, and if history tells us anything then this weekend’s clash will be too close to call. These games saw the match settled by just one score with Wells triumphing 11-6 and 10-3 respectively. 

Tunbridge Wells are now in their third season in this highly competitive division (which features both semi-professional and amateur players) and sits at level five in England Rugby’s league pyramid. Highly commendable fifth and seventh place league finishes have cemented Wells’ status but Sevenoaks should be very pleased with how they have taken the very evident step up that this league demands of teams. 

The visitors to St Marks won a titanic struggle to secure promotion and the London South One title last season, with four strong teams finishing within 7 points of each other. Their four wins from eight games is a solid foundation to build upon and they sit comfortably mid-table in 8th this season on 19 points, whilst Wells are in 5th but just four points ahead on 23.

There is a very warm relationship between the two local neighbours, both on and off the pitch. Indeed, at Under 15 Girls level the two clubs have “clustered” together to provide their players with more competitive opportunities. This friendship is also emphasised by the fact that the clubs’ Under 9 sections will be playing in a ‘curtain raiser’ exhibition match before forming a joint guard of honour for the players ahead of the ‘big’ match itself. The Tunbridge Wells Second XV also take on the Oaks IIs in the Invicta League.

A large crowd is expected with the Second team match starting at 12.30 ahead of the 2.30 kick off for the main event. Entry is £5 with a programme.


Graham Withers

P.s. keep an eye out for “Flashback Two” this Tuesday looking back at the last contest just under three years ago.

Tunbridge Wells RFC adds another player to its International “Roll of Honour”

We are delighted to congratulate Kamil Wiecaszek who was selected for his first international cap for Poland as they took on Germany in the European Trophy yesterday.

The game took place in Lodz and Kamil made his impact off the bench in a 15-35 defeat. The prop was encouraged to join us from Thanet Wanderers in the summer to play a higher standard rugby week-in-week out if he was to further his international aspirations, so deserves great credit for his commitment to get him to this stage.

Well done Kamil – the club is immensely proud of you.

Flashback One – Tunbridge Wells v Sevenoaks (December 12th, 2015)

With the Rugby World Cup now over for 4 years (for me as a Welshman anyway!) minds (mine…) start to turn towards our first A21 Derby of the season with our friends from Sevenoaks next Saturday.

On Tuesday, I will be posting the report from that most recent home game in London One South just over three years ago (which was an arm wrestle to say the least) but first up is the London South East Division Two encounter from December 2015. Later in this campaign we were to deliver two outstanding performances at The Paddock on the ‘Road to Twickenham’ and the League/Cup Double. However, whilst most of us will well remember how close Matson came to ending the remarkable 100% record in the Intermediate Cup Semi-Final do you recall this game? This really was the closest anyone got to beating us…..

Match Report courtesy of the Tunbridge Wells Courier:-

“Tunbridge Wells edged out Sevenoaks in a thriller at St Mark’s this afternoon, 11-6.

In a clash of the two unbeaten teams, a close match was expected and that was exactly what fans of both sides got in tough conditions. Ollie Allman’s two second-half penalties proved the difference as Wells battled back from 6-5 down at half-time to triumph.

The hosts’ defence was outstanding all afternoon, denying Sevenoaks time and time again. Oaks could have won it at the death, but an accidental offside, while camped on the Wells line, brought an end to proceedings.

Wells came flying out of the traps and were immediately on the attack. Full-back Hayden Pope knocked on at a crucial moment, while Ben Speer had a half chance after a brilliant charge down, before they scored the only try of the game on nine minutes.

Oaks conceded a penalty deep in their own territory, Wells kicked for touch and won good lineout ball. Charlie Harding, using all his National League experience, spotted space around the ruck, took the ball on the blindside and ran in unopposed. Defensively it was poor from the visitors. Allman lined up his conversion straight into the howling gale and like a boomerang the ball almost came straight back to him.

Oaks, to their credit, came storming back and had the lion’s share of territory without ever really threatening the Wells line. Nick Doherty and Christian Earle, to single out two, were defensively superb at the breakdown for Wells. However, Oaks took the lead into the break, Issac Winter expertly kicking two penalties following Wells infringements.

Two minutes before half-time Oaks were reduced to 14 men when Atino Vaihu, their dangerman in the middle of the park, was sent to the sin-bin for a dangerous challenge.

Wells tried a few mind games at the break, going back into the changing room and keeping Oaks waiting out on the pitch. While it didn’t necessarily work, they did start the second period well. Alex Maynard went on a marauding run before being stopped, and Wells had a great chance with men over, but James Lineham couldn’t release his pass, being smothered by a fine tackle.

They did find the scoreboard though, Allman putting Wells ahead 8-6 after Oaks were adjudged offside.

But the visitors came back again and they had a sniff when Will Thorpe intercepted a Chaz Spence pass, he offloaded to Winter, but the fly-half took too long to make a decision and was brought down once again.

Conditions were increasingly difficult, with both teams guilty of poor handling and giving away numerous penalties. On the hour, Allman, who had a fine game, played a lovely chip and chase, gathered but was blocked off the ground. A penalty was given and Allman dusted himself off to knock over three more crucial points.

The final quarter was all Sevenoaks and they tried desperately to preserve their unbeaten record. They kept knocking on the Wells door but it was impregnable. With seconds to go they found themselves within touching distance of the line, but Dan Power was penalised for an accidental offside, Wells kicked to touch and the game was over. There really was that much to choose between the two sides.

Squad: Hayden Pope (Sam Newton); Tom George, Alex Maynard, Charlie Harding, Ben Speer; Ollie Allman, Chaz Spence; Julius Redman, Sean O’Connor (Capt), Tone Vaigafa (Tim Collins), James Lineham (Andy Burgess), Christian Earle, Nick Doherty, Mike Hathaway, Matt Cook. “

Graham Withers

CS Stags 1863 24 Tunbridge Wells 34

Tunbridge Wells’ trip to Chiswick was, perhaps, something of a case of “after the Lord Mayor’s Show” following England’s thrilling World Cup semi-final win that morning, but for the players involved this was an important game in it own right. CS Rugby have had a topsy-turvy season beating the likes of Hertford but also losing what would be perceived as easier games. They also needed to bounce back from an a 71-22 thumping last time out in Guernsey. Wells, on the other hand, were looking to build on the hard-fought win over London Irish Wild Geese that ended a run of three defeats.

Wells made one alteration in the backs with George Montgomery starting at centre which saw skipper Ryan Taylor-Dennehy revert to his customary full back role and Ollie Allman move to the bench. In the forwards, new Kiwi signings Tui Tauaika and Agy Eukaliti started at prop and lock respectively after robust debuts from the bench last week. In addition, there was a 1st XV debut for Skinners School and Heathfield product James Pancaldi at flanker after some strong efforts in the Seconds, emphasising the squad approach that is being built. The ever-reliable Ben Whale moved back into the boiler room.

Unsurprisingly, ground conditions were damp and the weather did its best to hamper any constructive play as it got progressively wetter as the afternoon went on. The men from Kent started positively playing into the wind and after good approach play to the left, a switch back to the right was to earn a penalty shot which Frank Reynolds converted on 4 minutes. 0-3.

Wells were awarded a scrum penalty but sadly this was not a sign of things to come as the set-piece again came under pressure and faltered – in the first half anyway. The visitors were playing well ball in hand but perhaps could have taken a more pragmatic approach and kicked a little more for territory given the conditions. The Stags were certainly happier to put boot to ball and this enabled them to have a sustained period of play in the Wells 22 on the quarter of an hour mark. When the Wells scrum collapsed the home team looked to take advantage by opting for their own attacking scrum and from this they opened their account when their centre crossed for a try that their outside half converted. 7-3.

When Taylor-Dennehy was taken out after kicking the ball forward, Wells had a penalty kick 22 metres out that Reynolds will have been disappointed to miss. However, this was not to be crucial as the Wells forwards took control of the ball on 23 minutes and Whale forced his way over after a superb series of pick and drives. Reynolds slotted the conversion to make the lead 7-10.

The team from St Marks were enjoying a dominant spell with Tauaika and Pancaldi prominent. Whale has been a yeoman ball carrier since the campaign started and another great drive put Wells on the front foot. Showing great vision Montgomery spotted Richard Webster out wide and (in an echo of their under 15 season together) he struck a sweet diagonal kick that the in-form winger gathered before diving in for the try. The tough conversion was missed but this made it 7-15 on 28 minutes. 

Stags narrowed the lead almost immediately with a penalty but then Wells struck back after a powerful Tauaika surge saw the home team penalised in front of the posts and Reynolds made it 10-18 on 32 minutes.

With Montgomery, Whale and Nick Doherty carrying well the visitors looked the more likely team to score again as half-time approached. However, Stags kicked into the Wells 22 when the visitors conceded another scrum penalty. From the line-out they seemed powerless to stop a fine Stags rolling maul which went 20 metres to score out wide. An excellent touchline conversion made it 17-18 at half time.

As the second half started hopes will have been high that Wells would be able to put the game to bed. They now had the wind advantage and had looked the better side in the first 40 minutes, but there was a need for more precision (admittedly difficult in the conditions), a more secure set-piece (although there had been more positive signs in the line-out) and a more astute kicking game for territory. 

If it was more energy that Head Coach Simon Whatling had asked for in the interval then he certainly got it. Excellent approach play put Wells just 5 metres out only for a knock on to spoil the good work. As the rain got heavier so, disconcertingly, did the penalty count against the visitors. Back-chat and another scrum infringement gave the momentum to Stags and it took a sustained period of robust defence to force a knock-on and alleviate the pressure on their line.

It was a time for experience now as Croall (who was to make a major difference in the scrum) replaced Wiecaszek and Allman took over from Webster. On 58 minutes Reynolds slotted a third penalty goal after Stags were caught offside but at just 17-21 the game was still up for grabs.

Indeed, it was the home side that now seemed to have taken the game by the scruff of the neck. Wells were themselves caught offside on halfway and from the attacking line-out Wells were penalised again and to make matters worse Whale was shown a yellow card. Sensing this was the time to strike Stags opted for a scrum and were able to cross with ease for a converted try that took them into the lead at 24-21 on 65 minutes.

This Wells side is nothing if not tenacious though and, although they were a man down, they now seized a grip of the game that was to see them home for  the win. Despite being the man short in their forwards (and Montgomery playing as a makeshift flanker!) the visitors earned a hugely significant scrum penalty. Would they opt for the easy three points on offer to tie the scores or, sensing a momentum shift, would skipper Taylor-Dennehy roll the dice and take the braver option of another scrum despite being short-handed? A scrum it was and when Stags were penalised again it was they who now lost a player to the sin bin. This time another scrum was a less controversial option and when Mike Doherty crashed through under the posts for the try the decision was fully vindicated. Reynolds had supported Doherty, and the outside half now added the extra two so with 5 minutes plus injury time to play it was 24-28.

Luke Hawkins was on for Tauaika (with ever dependable Stuart Nicholls moving to prop), and Whale also now returned from his spell on the naughty step. The question was could Wells now close the game out and the answer was definitively “yes”. Stags were penalised for killing the ball and Reynolds struck a booming penalty from the halfway line on 78 minutes before taking advantage of an easier opportunity two minutes into injury time to kick his fifth three-pointer. This put the win beyond doubt at 24-34.

No bonus point this week then but that should certainly not take the gloss off another praiseworthy away win for Tunbridge Wells. Make no mistake, this is a game that Wells could have lost and indiscipline needs to be worked on. The conditions also made their standard ball-in-hand based game plan a difficult one to execute as both the ball and ground were slippery. There might, therefore have been an argument for not being so dogmatic and putting boot to ball more often but that’s easy to say from the sidelines and this was still another strong performance where they had to dig deep. Reynolds had a pleasing 19 point haul to reflect on; Whale, Montgomery, both Doherty brothers and Allman showed aggression and intelligence at crucial moments, whilst Croall’s technical excellence at the scrum was a defining contribution. 

The Rugby World Cup Final always meant this would be a rest week coming up and the players can look to recover and recuperate ahead of the first fiercely anticipated “A21 Derby” of the season as Wells host Sevenoaks at St Marks on 9th November. Kick off is at 2.30 and a large crowd is expected.

Squad:  Ryan Taylor-Dennehy (Capt); Richard Webster (Ollie Allman),Mike Doherty, George Montgomery, Max Hobbs; Frank Reynolds, Eddie Croft; Tui Tauaika (Luke Hawkins), Stuart Nicholls, Kamil Wiecaszek (Aston Croall), Agy Eukaliti, Ben Whale, Chris Brown, James Pancaldi, Nick Doherty.

Elsewhere in the League

Wimbledon and Rochford Hundred both secured bonus point wins at home – against Guildford (52-7) and London Irish Wild Geese (26-0). They now sit on 39 and 37 points respectively and have stretched the gap back to Guernsey in third on 33 who again left a try bonus-point behind in a hard-fought 10-17 win up the road in a” mud-bath” (Guernsey’s words) at Sevenoaks. This provides a reminder (not that we needed it!) that the Oaks will be tough nut to crack in a fortnight. Sidcup are now fourth on 25 points after beating Dorking 23-11, and we sit fifth on 23, ahead of Dorking and Hertford on 21. The last-named earned local bragging rights in their always fiercely-contested ‘Derby’ game at Tring with a 9-14 win. Sevenoaks are 8th on 19 before a 5 point gap exists to Bedford Athletic (20-10 victors over bottom-placed Brighton) and Tring on 14. CS Stags are 11th on 11 points, followed by London Irish (10), Guildford (7) and Brighton on 4.

Graham Withers