Sutton & Epsom (Home)

A dry day gave way to wind and rain as these two sides took to the field with the home side having the wind and rain to their backs in the first half. Max Douch took over scrum half duties as Chas Spence recovers from his jaw injury, Mike Doherty replaced Shaydn Osgood and Max Hobbs came onto the bench for his first game.

Wells started at pace and had well taken tries by Mike Doherty 6 minutes and Ryan Taylor – Dennehy after a Nick Doherty chip forward in the first 10 minutes to which Frank Reynolds added a penalty after 15. (15-0).

It took this long for Sutton and Epsom to get going but with picking and driving they started to get into the game. The Wells defence led by it’s back row were not giving an inch and they could find no way through or over the gain line.

When the home side had the ball they handled very well in the conditions and Reynolds at fly half used the ball intelligently to kick field positions.

As a result more tries followed at regular intervals, through Gus O’Grady after a patient pick and drive 28 mins, through Kyle McGarvie from a pushover on 30 mins (which collected Wells 12 th Try bonus of the campaign) and the try of the game on 38 minutes as Blaise Salle burst up the right and handed the ball on to Matt Spicer whose pace took him the remaining 35 metres and in under the posts. With Reynolds kicking boots well tuned he kicked this from the touchline to make it 4 out of 5 conversions and a halftime lead of 36-0.

If the back row deserved a special mention in the first half with all three, Nick Doherty, Mike Hathaway and Dave Allen having exceptional games the front row of Brendan Crosilla, Kyle McGarvie and Josh Pankhurst were also instrumental in the Wells dominance in the set scrum.

The pace slowed to some degree as Wells faced the wind and Sutton and Epsom enjoyed more of the ball but the Wells defence continued to hold as they added further tries through Frank Reynolds after a kick ahead on the counter from Taylor – Dennehy on 49 mins ( 43-0) and from Mike Hathaway after a 50 metre pick and drive had been repelled but not the ensuing line out and attack out wide to the left. Reynolds kicking both of the conversions to make his personal tally for a great afternoons work 20 points.

With a lead of 50 points by the 67 th minute it was probably not surprising that Wells took their foot off the gas to some degree as the surface became more difficult. S and E upped their game and displayed great spirit as the game went into a long injury time period scoring tries through sub Joe Ridgly on 80 minutes and from skipper and scrum half Steve Munford from a tap penalty on 86 minutes.

Wells Coach Simon Whatling was pleased with the way Wells played in the conditions and said: ‘we had a great Thursday training session with over 40 in attendance. It’s pleasing to see work on the training paddock paying dividends on a Saturday both at First and second team level, where our seconds narrowly beat leaders Sevenoaks in Kent Invicta 1.

This Saturday sees Wells at local neighbours Westcombe Park KO 2 30 PM as they seek to retain a top six place.

Roger Clarke.

 

Towcestrians (Away)

Tunbridge Wells travelled up to Northamptonshire to visit Towcestrians for the first time. Having beaten their hosts 41-7 earlier in the season at St Marks the final score was to be an almost mirror image of that game.

Conditions were difficult for the players with constant rain and the occasional snow flurries making the wet pitch even heavier as the game progressed. Despite this both teams showed good skill sets throughout but it was the power of the Wells pack of forwards that was to prove decisive. From the first scrum the front row of Kyle McGarvie, new-signing Josh Pankhurst and Brendan Crosilla, dominated their opponents. The first scrum saw the home pack shunted back 5 metres and this was to continue throughout the game. With Pankhurst also combining well at the line-out with Christian Earle and Mike Hathaway, this set piece platform enabled number 8 Nick Doherty to have masterful game.

It took 8 minutes for the visitors to open the scoring. A strong rolling maul that covered 20 metres pushed Towcestrians back and when Frank Reynolds popped the ball to inside centre Shadyn Osgood he powered his way through an unavailing tackle to score under the posts. With Reynolds’ conversion it was 0-7.

Wells stretched their lead 5 minutes later. A huge Osgood tackle dislodged the ball and Blaise Salle then made a fine break. Skipper Chaz Spence was quickly in support and kicked the ball through for the chasing Matt Spicer to dot down out wide. The conversion went wide but it was now 0-12. Sadly, this was to be Spence’s last positive involvement as at the restart he received a heavy late tackle as he made a relieving kick and left the field not to return. Mike Doherty came on at centre, Salle moved to the wing and the versatile Max Douch went to 9.

The home team now had their first spell of territory and used their maul to great effect. However, the determination of the Wells defence was a feature all afternoon and they resisted the midlanders efforts. Dave Allen and Osgood made important tackles but all players contributed to a fine defensive effort. A good clearance kick by Reynolds eventually released the pressure. Towcestrians had a defensive scrum 30 metres out but a huge Wells push stole the ball for Nick Doherty to pick up and challenge the home defence. Expertly drawing the final man he passed to Douch to score the third try on 23 minutes. Again the conversion kick was difficult given the underfoot conditions and fell short. 0-17.

Towcestrians came back at the kick off but an excellent Gus O’Grady turnover took away their momentum. At this stage the boys from St Marks were incurring the wrath of the referee at the breakdown but with a solid blue defensive wall they could not break through.  Indeed, it was Wells who were to score next when Nick Doherty stole a home line-out before setting off on a 40 metre run beating three defenders for a spectacular individual try. With Reynolds converting it was now 0-24 on 36 minutes and the try bonus point was in the bag too.

Wells were not satisfied though and on 40 minutes another powerful scrum saw a pushover try for Doherty. Half time 0-29.

The half time team talk will have seen satisfied coaches and players with the hope of a large second half score and the opportunity to rest players was taken with Carl Straeche and Mac Popham replacing McGarvie and Allen. The expectation of a comfortable second half was further enforced on 49 minutes by a second pushover try to secure Nick Doherty’s hat-trick, converted by Reynolds. 0-36.

From the kick-off Reynolds was subjected to a late tackle which infuriated the visiting team and a scuffle ensued. The referee took decisive action yellow carding both the Towcestrians number 8 for the offending tackle and Wells’ Osgood for his perceived involvement in the hand bags.

This seemed to unsettle Wells and as they conceded a procession of penalties the home side dominated territory and possession for the next 20 minutes. However, tenacious defence thwarted all Towcestrians efforts with Earle, Hathaway and Pankhurst to the fore. On 70 minutes Spicer was yellow-carded for a deliberate knock-on but the home side still could not cross the line. This was real character building stuff from Wells.

Having spent very little time in the opposition half Wells finally got back into the Towcestrians 22. Firstly, Ryan Taylor-Dennehy and Salle almost created a try but then from a scrum the Doherty brothers combined with Nick putting in older brother Mike for Wells’ seventh try on 77 minutes. 0-41.

The 9 minutes of injury time was to prove frustrating for Wells as the home side finally scored a try from a forward drive and then Osgood received a second yellow card for a tackle offence.

This should not over shadow a superb team performance though, both in attack and defence that sees Wells remain in 6th position in the league on 47 points. Next week (27th) they host Sutton & Epsom who are 9th on ‪42 at St‬ Marks with ‪a 2pm‬ kick off. All support will be gratefully received.

Squad: Ryan Taylor-Dennehy; Max Douch, Blaise Salle, Shaydyn Osgood, Matt Spicer; Frank Reynolds, Chaz Spence (Capt) (Mike Doherty); Kyle McGarvie (Carl Straeche), Josh Pankhurst, Brendan Crosilla, Christian Earle, Gus O’Grady, Mike Hathaway, Dave Allen (Mac Popham), Nick Doherty.

 

Guernsey (Away)

This was a tough first fixture of 2018 for Wells as they had an early morning start to catch the flight to Guernsey where the Premier division leaders lay in wait. The rain held off and pitch conditions were good as Wells took the field in front of the Island’s supporters and a number of past Tunbridge Wells inhabitants now living in the Channel Islands.
Wells started slowly after the three week Christmas break and after some initial skirmishes got pinned in the right hand corner after a penalty.

The home side made no mistake securing the line out and rolling the maul over for an unconverted try from hooker Tom Ceillan . 5-0  after 8 minutes.

Wells enjoyed more of the ball in the next 10 minutes of play and were rewarded as Guernsey were penalised for not rolling away and fly half Frank Reynolds kicked the penalty from in front 5-3 after 13 minutes. Wells continued to enjoy possession but the defensive line speed of the Guernsey team made it difficult at times to get over the gain line.
Captain Chas Spence got away for a 40 metre line break and Nick Doherty just failed to get the ball away to brother Mike down the right but further points would not come.

It was therefore somewhat frustrating that Guernsey sent another penalty to the corner and scored a carbon copy rolling maul try through Cameron Craine to go with their first with fly half Owen Thomas landing the conversion on 23 minutes 12-3.

For most of the second quarter Wells secured good line out ball through the throwing of hooker Luke Hawkins and the jumping of Mike Hathaway, Owain Withers and Christian Earle. The scrum held firm as well with Brendan Crosilla and Kyle McGarvie holding things very steady.
The closest either side came to scoring in this period being Frank Reynolds bouncing an attempted penalty from 40 metres on the crossbar and back into play on 37 minutes as the first half came to an end at 12-3.

All was still to play for in the second half and for the first ten minutes it remained that way as Wells worked some good back moves and also used their back row to make the hard yards up the middle. From one of these moves a diagonal kick to Blaise Salle almost saw the winger in and from the subsequent position Wells picked and drove to the line only to lose control as they looked to go over. However, pressure was maintained and after several phases of play full- back Ryan Taylor- Dennehy picked an immaculate line to score from 20 meters halfway out but Reynolds could not convert 12-8 after 48 minutes.

The next 10 minutes were to win the game for Guernsey as Wells dropped the ball from the kick off and Guernsey showed speed and precision as open – side Dale Martin finished off good approach work from centre Ned Brown, Thomas converting on 52 minutes 19-8.
Wells then lost hooker Luke Hawkins and second row Owain Withers to injury as their play started to look a little tired. The islanders upped their work rate seeking the all important try bonus as Wells found it difficult to secure good line-out or scrummage ball. Nevertheless Reynolds pegged back the score on 55 minutes as he nailed a penalty for obstruction 19-11.

It was inevitably though the rolling maul that delivered the try for the home side as it had done on two previous occasions as Guernsey secured the try but not the conversion on 58 minutes 24-11.

Wells though are a spirited group and for the last quarter only conceded an Owen Thomas penalty 27-11 at the start of the quarter as several breaks earnt territory and threatened the home line.  Taylor – Dennehy continued to look incisive, Max Douche put in a trade mark 40 metre weaving run and Christian Earle made yards as Brendan Crosilla began to feel the effects of an energetic afternoon.

No further scores though could be added to the visitors total as Guernsey continued to demonstrate their aggressive line speed in defence . Wells can take heart that they were competitive throughout at one of the most difficult away journeys in the league but will have to up the overall performance rate for the visit of high fliers Tring KO 2 00 PM at St Marks this Saturday if they are to add to their current points tally for the first time in 2018.

Squad: Kyle McGarvie, Carl Straeche, Luke Hawkins, Brendan Crosilla, Christian Earle, Owain Withers, Gus O’Grady, Mike Hathaway, Nick Doherty, Mac Popham, Chaz Spence, Frank Reynolds, Blaise Salle, Adam Webb, Shadyn Osgood, Mike Doherty, Matt Spicer, Ryan Taylor-Dennehy.

Barnes (Home)

Wells have enjoyed some heady days in the past few weeks in RFU London and SE Premier beating Sidcup, Westcliff and Guildford in the process. This game featuring Barnes in 4 th place and Wells in 5 th would be a real test of the town side’s pedigree as they sought a first ever win against the SW London side.
Only one change to the squad as Mac Popham replaced the injured Hayden Pengelly and great conditions underfoot gave the chance of a very close and competitive game.Wells enjoyed the slope in the first half but were behind after 9 mins as almost total Barnes possession saw fly half Gareth Williams- Davies turn a penalty into points 0-3..However, whenever Wells did manage to gain possession they looked dangerous and from a move into the Barnes half Christian Earle received a great offload from hooker Luke Hawkins and took off on a 40 metre diagonal to the posts with no one from Barnes looking likely to stop him. Frank Reynolds converting 7-3 after 12 minutes.

Barnes continued to control possession enjoying a 70% plus share and despite valiant tackling from the Wells back row and particularly from Mike Hathaway and Dave Allen the pressure began to tell.  This pressure culminated in tries after accurate recycling for Barnes in the 26 th and 29th minutes as first second row Jamie Collins wet over on the left for an unconverted try and fly half Gareth Williams- Davies followed on the right and converted his try three minutes later to give the visitors a7-15 lead.Wells continued to chase the ball which was well protected by Barnes but were unlucky not to score as halftime loomed as Dave Allen put in a 40 metre surge to within 5 before being stopped and penalised for holding on. Frank Reynolds  also hooked a penalty wide as both sides went in at half time with Barnes still holding a 7-15 advantage.

If Wells were to fight back in the second half they would need to get more ball, and tidy up their line out as they played up the hill. Unfortunately for them it was Barnes who scored their third try as they opted to scrum from close to the Wells line and marched them over as No 8 and skipper Alex Hind got the score and Williams- Davies converting to stretch the lead to 7-22 after 44 minutes.

Wells continued to show determination and physicality in defence with Shaydn Osgood and Mike Doherty putting in some big tackles but things got worse as Blaise Salle was sent to the sin bin for taking a Barnes player in the air. Remarkably though this was the signal for the Wells to summon the form of the last three weeks. At the centre of this was skipper and scrum half Chas Spence who single handedly for a 15 minute period took the game by the scruff of the neck as his forwards started to provide more ball. On 55 minutes Spence broke from a ruck chipped over the top into the big dead ball area and won the race for the try converted by Reynolds 14-22. Ten minutes later Spence repeated the dose as he broke again put in a grubber kick and again won the race with Reynolds converting 21-22 on 65 minutes.

Back to 15 men and with more ball Wells pursued the win for the last 15 minutes opportunities came and went. Mike Hathaway put in a huge tackle to dislodge the ball and Spence went for his hat trick only being beaten by inches, two penalties to the corner had the Wells supporters wondering whether a penalty or a drop goal might have been an option. Sadly those elusive points didn’t quite come although it was a mighty close thing as the home side had to make do with a losing bonus point.

Simon Whatling and his support coaches can be proud of his team as they go into the Christmas break with 41 points to their name and a 7 th position. A well earnt rest now before the trip to league leaders Guernsey on the 6 th January.Roger Clarke.

Shelford (Away)

Wells travelled to Cambridgeshire to compete in their last game of the season against a Shelford side they had defeated 39-19 in their first home game of their new campaign in London and SE Premier Division. The temperature was in the low 20’s as they ran out on Shelford’s new artificial grass pitch. Wells had secured their impressive 5th place in this the highest league they have played in the week before and Shelford had guaranteed survival with a big win against Sutton and Epsom.

The first half was a relatively even one with Wells not really at their best in attack but with their defence causing a number of spill ages and turnovers from their hosts. Scrums were even but again Wells had trouble securing their own ball at offensive line outs.
Shelford were on the large electronic scoreboard first as fly half Josh Simmons made no mistake 3-0 7 minutes. Wells though stuck manfully to the task with an intent to move the ball wide which saw them run the ball down the right in a counter attack before moving the ball inside for Mike Hathaway to get the touch down and Frank Reynolds the conversion 3-7 on 16 minutes.
Possession continued to ebb and flow with Wells defending several rolling mauls.

Things remained this way until the referee took exception to events at a break down on 23 minutes when Luke Hawkins the Wells hooker and Aki Lea the Shelford 8 were both shown yellow cards. This opened the game up and on 28 minutes Anzelu Tuitavuki the home left wing scored from the halfway line with Simmons missing the conversion 8-7.

With both players safely back on the pitch Frank Reynolds took a simple penalty opportunity on 33 minutes to restore the Wells lead which remained the score at halftime 8-10 to the visitors.

At the restart Wells continued in contention holding up the Shelford pack over the line and initiating some good yards in attack. Despite going behind to a Simmons try and conversion on 52 minutes 15-10 the game was still in the balance but opportunities were not so frequent as Simmons put Wells under aerial bombardment. Nevertheless Max Hobbs went close on the right and then Wells moved the ball right to create the extra man. Often games are won with an inspired moment and home right wing Charlie Parkhouse seized it as he intercepted only 10 metres from his own try line to score under the posts withSimmons converting on 62 minutes 22-10. From then onwards this was a task too far for Wells as they strove to deliver a sixth successive win and with a further yellow card for impeding conceded a final try which brought Shelford the bonus on 80 minutes. 27-10.

This defeat can in no way though undermine the most successful season for Tunbridge Wells playing at RFU Level 5 for the first time as they end up in 5 th place from the 13 sides competing.

Credit must go to the squad in general, the coaching team of Simon Whatling, Dave Allen and Mike Whatman and to the team management of Chairman John Crees and Team Manager Michelle Greenall not forgetting the work of Will Thorpe up until the end of January.
Now comes a rest before the town side looks to improve on this showing in 2018/19.

Squad: Ben Williams, Luke Hawkins, Brendan Crosilla, Carl Straeche, Adam Webb, Christian Earle, Toby Talbot, Mike Hathaway, Nick Doherty, Mac Popham, Max Douch, Frank Reynolds, Blaise Salle, Mike Doherty, Shadyn Osgood, Max Hobbs, Matt Spicer, Ryan Taylor – Dennehy.

Guildford (Home)

Wells fielded the same starting 15 as they had in winning at Westcliff last week but brought Academy product Toby Talbot onto the bench with Kyle McGarvie. Conditions were at last firm under foot and warm sunshine greeted both sides. The visitors needed a win to bolster their chances of surviving at this level for the 2018/19 season and begun the game looking like the win was more important to them than it did to Wells. This was to be the story of the first half as despite Frank Reynolds putting the home side in front with a penalty on 17 minutes little else went right for the town side in the first 40 minutes as the G’s took a firm grip on proceedings aided and abetted by wayward kicking, and a failure to secure line out ball from Wells.

With territory and position it only took Guildford 2 minutes to respond with scrum half  Bradley Smith cutting inside the Wells cover to score close to the posts and with full back Ali Chisholm adding the extras 3-7 on 19 minutes. Things did not get better for Wells in the second quarter as imprecise passing, and a loss of initial dominance in the tight saw a succession of penalties move Guildford to within range and a rolling maul from a lineout on the left collapsed with Wells adjudged the offenders as the referee awarded a penalty try and Nick Doherty was despatched with a yellow card on 35 minutes 3-14.

With Doherty off Wells looked under even more pressure as Ben Williams joined Doherty in the bin as he was somewhat harshly  judged to have adopted an illegal position as the G’s no 3 George Banks went to the floor. With Wells down to 13  on 42 minutes Guildford rolled again and No 6 Ollie Millward claimed Guildford’s third try following up on the drive. This left the halftime score at 3-21 as Chisholm again kicked the extras and left the Wells crowd -bolstered by the Vice Presidents lunch- scratching their heads as to how they were going to extract themselves from this position.

However, this team has not hit the top 5 in London Premier this year without considerable skill and spirit and having succeeded in holding the opposition at bay for the first few minutes of the second half until back to fifteen they proceeded to reel in the score. First Blaise Salle went close on the right and within 2 minutes Nick Doherty finished off a patient pick and drive sequence halfway out with Frank Reynolds kicking the conversion 10-21 46 minutes.

Wells continued to dominate as Dave Allen used his experience and skill to pick at the narrow channels and suck G’s in before releasing the ball. This gave much greater space to the backs when the ball was moved wide. Skipper Ryan Taylor –Dennehy was next to blast up the left touchline and looked to have scored after a 40 metre run only to have the try disallowed for putting it down in goal but over the touchline. This made little difference to the momentum which had shifted decidedly to the home side as on 53 minutes further patient picking and driving saw Man of the Match Dave Allen pop the ball to Mike Doherty on the straight burst for him to score and for Reynolds again to add the extras which was to prove vital 17-21.

Wells were not finished yet as they exploited an 18 minute purple patch to score yet again on 64 minutes as a midfield switch from centre Shadyn Osgood saw Taylor – Dennehy make up for his earlier narrow miss to run in from 30 metres beating the defence for pace as he scored Wells third try with Reynolds again converting 24-21.

This purple patch put Wells in the driving seat as they regained control in the scrum and started to take their line outs as Mc Garvie came on from the subs bench. With the back row bossing the breakdown Wells were able to see out time despite Guildford striving for those points for survival.

As the final whistle came Guildford got a valuable losing bonus point and Wells couldn’t quite add to their try bonus points. However, soon afterwards it became apparent as Westcliff went down to Hertford that Wells had secured their 5th position in their first season at this level and Guildford need a win in their last game or they need Westcombe Park to lose in order to survive in this league for next season.

This Saturday Wells travel to Shelford  to play on their new Artificial grass pitch as they conclude the season in the highest position the club has ever attained since the inception of the RFU leagues and striving to keep their sequence of 5 wins in a row going.

Squad: Ben Williams, Luke Hawkins, Brendan Crosilla, Kyle McGarvie, Christian Earle, Mac Popham, Mike Hathaway, Dave Allen, Nick Doherty, Toby Talbot, Max Douch, Frank Reynolds, Blaise Salle, Matt Spicer, Mike Doherty, Shadyn Osgood, Max Hobbs,  Ryan Taylor- Dennehy (Capt)

 

Westcliff (Away)

After a well earned break over Easter Tunbridge Wells travelled to Westcliff for the fixture that would almost certainly decide fifth place in the league. Westcliff were two points above Wells in fifth and had their tails up after a good win over Sutton and Epsom in their last fixture. The sun was out, the ground was dry and conditions seemed perfect for expansive rugby, but the early exchanges were all about the scrum.  Wells found it hard going against a very solid Westcliff pack and once again it took them a while to get into the game. With their pack securing plenty of ball, Westcliff’s backs probed the Wells defensive line without success, but they always looked dangerous.

 

Neither side looked to be on top attacking form, but with defences working well and only a few minutes remaining the first half looked likely to be limited to two penalties for Westcliff and a yellow card apiece.  But Wells had other ideas. With very little time left on the clock and Wells applying sustained pressure to the Westcliff line, the ball was spun out to the back line and Mike Doherty made no mistake for the try.  Frank Reylolds’ conversion meant the visitors edged ahead with the halftime score of 6-7 giving them a mental boost.

 

Both sets of coaches would have had plenty to say at half time but it was the Wells’ coach Simon Whatling’s team talk that had the almost instant impact. Both teams were restored to full strength and the boys in blue and white restarted with all cylinders firing. They put direct pressure quickly on the Westcliff line and moved the ball efficiently out to captain Ryan Taylor-Dennehy for try number two.  Reynolds’ conversion went wide. 6-12.

 

It wasn’t too long before Westcliff replied with an unconverted try bringing the scores back to 11-12.  Nerves were jangling a little with the travelling support but seven minutes later Ryan Taylor-Dennehy bagged his second, and Wells’ third, try.  Reynolds’ conversion was unsuccessful so the score still felt too close at 11-17.

 

With less than 10 minutes to go and the home crowd vocally urging their team on, prop Ben Williams broke through the defensive line. Williams cleverly fed the ball across the pitch to Shadyn Osgood who made a terrific 50 metre run for the bonus point fourth try. Reynolds slotted over the conversion and with five minutes to go the score was 11-24.

 

Westcliff weren’t giving up easily though and finished the game with a second try making the final score 16-24.

This was not a pretty win, but it was a solid defensive performance against a side that has held fifth in this league for most of the season. A bonus point win is always welcome and with 16 try bonus points and five losing bonus points this season Wells have shown grit and determination in victory and defeat. Wells make it a double over Westcliff and will look forward to meeting them again next season.

 

Next week Tunbridge Wells welcome Guildford to St. Mark’s for the last home fixture of the season.  Kick off 3pm.

 

Squad:

Ben Williams, Luke Hawkins, Carl Straeche, Christian Earle, Mike Hathaway, Adam Webb, Dave Allen, Nick Doherty, Max Douch, Frank Reynolds, Blaise Salle, Mike Doherty, Shadyn Osgood, Max Hobbs, Ryan Taylor-Dennehy (c), Brendan Crosilla, Mac Popham, Matt Spicer

Sidcup (Home)

In good conditions for running rugby Wells played up hill in the first half against a Sidcup side flirting with relegation. Max Douch kept the scrum half role, Brendan Crosilla was withdrawn after back spasms to be replaced by Carl Straeche, and Andy Burgess started in the second row.
However, apart from the first five minutes where Wells announced their intention of playing wide they hardly put a hand on the ball for the next 20 minutes as a clearly motivated Sidcup side battered the home defensive line. Wells defence and Sidcup possession were to dominate the afternoon and ultimately determine the victor.
Wells did get onto the scoreboard first with a Frank Reynolds penalty in the 14th minute but could still not achieve more than a 20% share of the ball. For the most part the Wells defence was very solid but after two successive penalties up the touchline Sidcup saw their chance to use their physicality and inexorably rolled a maul over in the left hand corner for NO 8 Freddy Ruff to score the try and full back Josh Twyford to notch the conversion 3-7 after 25 minutes.

Wells though with what ball they enjoyed- mainly kicked to them by the Sidcup halfbacks- decided to live by the sword and on 28 minutes player coach Dave Allen launched a counter attack from deep in the home half which covered 70 metres as the ball went through several pairs of hands to find centre Mike Doherty who knifed through for the try. 8-7.
The rest of the half saw a similar pattern as Wells went close, with a diagonal kick from Reynolds to Nick Doherty who popped up on the wing.
Halftime arrived with no further score and with both sides capable of a win. Head Coach Simon Whatling would have stressed Wells potency out wide and Sidcup will have emphasised the power of their pack in close quarter play.

Wells commenced the second half having to display their defensive skills again Christian Earle, Dave Allen, Mike Hathaway and Shadyn Osgood particularly to the fore but after 45 minutes another penalty to the corner saw Sidcup roll the maul again from the line out. The maul collapsed on the line and the referee gave a penalty try and sent Mike Hathaway to the touchline with a yellow card. 8-14.

Wells then produced a calibre of defensive play across the team which ultimately won them the game as they prevented Sidcup from scoring or getting over the gain line very regularly until Hathaway’s return. As soon as he reappeared Wells struck with another length of the field counter attack initiated by captain Ryan Taylor- Dennehy from a Sidcup kick with wing Max Hobbs claiming the try and Frank Reynolds the conversion on 57 minutes 15-14.
Wells then showed with more of a share of the ball that the last 20 minutes is critical as they turned a penalty into a rolling maul and gave Sidcup a taste of their own medicine as Ben Williams peeled off to score and Reynolds to convert on 72 minutes.22-14.

Within another 2 minutes with Sidcup now playing catch up rugby a loose pass on their right wing was intercepted by Blaise Salle -on for Matt Spicer . Salle showed tremendous acceleration as he left his own 22 and arrived in the visitors to find centre Shadyn Osgood on his shoulder to take the inside pass and score close to the posts with Reynolds again converting 29-14 75 minutes.
From the kick off Wells failed to secure the ball and an offside forward gave Sidcup the chance of another rolling maul from the line out again with a similar result as No 8 Ruff grabbed his second try with Twyford converting on 78 minutes 29-21.
With full time beckoning Wells continued to attack down the left and when it broke down Sidcup saw a chance of at least a losing bonus point but Wells tackling again kept the visitors pinned in their own 22 until the final whistle went to seal their third victory in a row and their third try bonus in a row.
This Saturday sees a rest week before Wells travel to Essex side Westcliff. If they win then a 5th place beckons in this tough league. Coach Whatling will be happy with Wells current form and that of the towns second team who after a narrow win against Medway move into the top 3 in the County Invicta 1 league .

Squad: Ben Williams, Josh Pankhurst, Carl Straeche, Kyle McGarvie, Andy Burgess, Christian Earle, Dave Allen, Mike Hathaway, Nick Doherty, Toby Talbot, Max Douch, Frank Reynolds, Max Hobbs, Mike Doherty, Shadyn Osgood, Matt Spicer, Blaise Salle, Ryan Taylor Dennehy.

Roger Clarke

Dorking (Home)

Tunbridge Wells hosted Dorking at St Marks in a game that saw 6th take on 7th in a match that was always likely to be highly competitive.

Wells were hoping to put on a show as they bid farewell to club captain Chas Spence who now travels to Australia to further his rugby education and there was also a sense of unfinished business from when the teams first met on “Bonfire Night”in Surrey. An under-strength Wells were heavily beaten 42-7 in arguably their most disappointing performance of the season. It was a win Dorking clearly enjoyed that day but the boys from St Marks were keen to ensure that the only fireworks this time around came wrapped in blue and white.

Head Coach Simon Whatling was forced to make changes after the previous week’s impressive win at Southend. Max Douch started this time to replace Spence at scrum half, with Richard Webster coming on to the bench. The powerful Shaydn Osgood returned at centre after injury whilst in the forwards the ever-popular Andy Burgess came back into the second row enabling Mike Hathaway to move to his preferred back row slot. Luke Hawkins also returned as forward substitute cover. Full back Ryan Taylor-Dennehy assumed the captaincy.

The home side played up the hill  towards the club house on a bitterly cold day with the swirling wind predominantly in their faces going towards Wells’ defensive left hand corner. Indeed, the wind was to prove troublesome for both teams.

On 5 minutes Wells failed to deal with a box kick which led to to a successfully converted penalty for the visitors in front of the sticks. 0-3. In the early stages Dorking had the territorial advantage and after Wells knocked on during a line out maul in their own 22, they had an attacking scrum which earned a penalty and another scrum was chosen. Robust defence forced a knock on though and Wells were able to exit from the ensuing scrum. Strong defence of this nature was to be a feature of the afternoon for the home team.

Taylor-Dennehy and outside half Frank Reynolds kicked extremely well and intelligently into the wind, outplaying their counterparts. One such kick nearly led to a try as Academy product Toby Talbot charged down a clearing kick and the chasing wing Max Hobbs looked likely to score after good footballing skills only to knock on.

In these initial exchanges Dorking held the upper hand in the scrum with Wells incurring the wrath of the referee. However, the Wells line out was  functioning very well with hooker Josh Pankhurst hitting Hathaway and Christian Earle and did so all afternoon.

Wells first got on the scoreboard on 18 minutes. After a series of phases in the middle of the pitch close to the ruck on the Dorking 22 metre line, with Nick Doherty and Burgess to the fore, centre Mike Doherty exploited a mismatch against a visiting prop to cross for an opening try on the left hand side 10 metres in from touch. With a fine Reynolds conversion it was 7-3.

Dorking came back strongly but fierce and intelligent defence from Talbot,  Hobbs, Douch and Pankhurst led to a great turnover from prop Ben “Fridge” Williams. Soon after, Wells counter attacked well with Taylor-Dennehy, Hobbs and Osgood in tandem.

A break through the middle from a Dorking winger off the back of a line out led to a penalty. This was kicked to corner to set up a catch and drive on 28 minutes but phenomenal Wells defence again thwarted the visitors. This impressive defence was also leading to Dorking mistakes and with the home scrum now becoming increasingly competitive Wells entered their best phase of the first half.

A Taylor-Dennehy and Osgood counter saw excellent field position and when Dorking were penalised for a tackle offence Reynolds knocked over the penalty from 30 minutes. 10-3. Wells closed out a tough half up the slope after a break deep in his own half by Nick Doherty was taken on by Talbot who surged up field impressively. Wells had assumed control of the half dealing with the worst of the conditions through a superior kicking game and handling, coupled with great defence. Half Time 10-3.

As the second period started Earle broke through the middle and off loaded to Hathaway and a penalty was earned. Unfortunately, this went wide  but the home side were not to be denied. Not only did Williams pre-empt a laboured box kick clearance and charge it down but it was the prop himself who hacked through from the 22 metre line and beat the Dorking cover for a very popular touch down on 46 minutes. 15-3.

Dorking are not in 7th by accident though and came back only to be held up by Brendan Crosilla, Earle, Williams and Hathaway but the men in red and white eventually earned a penalty on 50 minutes that they converted from 30 metres. 15-6.

What would have particularly pleased Skills Coach Mike Whatman (now promoted to Director of Rugby) was the fact that Wells were executing their skills much the better of the two teams in the conditions. With the scrum now gradually assuming dominance Reynolds was soon given another penalty opportunity after Williams and Hathaway carried strongly again and he extended the Wells lead on 57 minutes. 18-6. On the hour after another impressive outing an injured Hathaway was replaced by Hawkins.

Despite Wells seemingly being in charge the game was not yet won and the visitors best passage of play saw some big carries up field earning a penalty. Dorking kicked to the Wells 5 metre line and an impressive catch and drive saw them score a try on 63 minutes. 18-11.

Nerves were just starting to jangle for the home support but these were almost settled when Reynolds cleverly chipped and chased but the defending blindside winger covered well to prevent the try. Webster now replaced the injured Mike Doherty and soon after Wells stretched their lead. Douch fed his ball carriers well and Crosilla, Earle and Pankhurst made good yardage before Taylor-Dennehy showing great vision grubbered the ball behind the Dorking defence and in-form winger Matt Spicer was first to the ball for the try. With a cracking Reynolds touchline conversion it was now 25-11 on 74 minutes.

All that was needed now for the perfect afternoon at the office was the fourth bonus point try and on 80 minutes it came. A huge hit by Osgood created turnover ball for Nick Doherty to break through for a final try converted by Reynolds. 32-11.

Overall, this was a thoroughly deserved win. Wells managed the conditions superbly and always seemed in control with resolute defence and great execution in skills and game plan against a very useful team. Man of the match could have genuinely gone to several players but for a huge shift in defence, the scrum and a very well taken try the accolade went to Ben “Fridge” Williams.

Wells moved to within two points of 5th placed Westcliff and will be targetting this spot with this away fixture to be played . Next week they host Kent rivals Sidcup at St Marks with a 3pm kick off. As the visitors are one of four teams battling to avoid the final relegation spot then another fiercely-contested local derby is likely.

Squad: Ben Williams, Josh Pankhurst, Brendan Crosilla, Kyle McGarvie, Andy Burgess, Christian Earle, Toby Talbot, Mike Hathaway, Luke Hawkins, Nick Doherty, Max Douch, Frank Reynolds, Matt Spicer, Mike Doherty, Shadyn Osgood, Max Hobbs, Ryan Taylor- Dennehy (Capt) Richard Webster.