BEDFORD ATHLETIC RFC 35. TUNBRIDGE WELLS RFC. 22
Wells had a day to forget on Saturday as the journey took 4 and a half hours- Dartford tunnel closure- and then despite floodlights the referee insisted on starting the game less than 30 minutes after arrival.
Despite this a relatively unchanged starting line up Carl Straeche for Ben Williams -the only change- started reasonably well with Frank Reynolds kicking the visitors into the lead and then converting a well taken Mike Doherty try in the corner to give a ten point lead in as many minutes.
Things were to get worse from this point on as first Wells lost Richard Murray- replaced by Richard Webster- to a head injury and then lost Max Edmonton to a yellow card which proved pivotal as the Bedford number 14 led a try fest as the home team scored 17 points in the period whilst Edmonton was off. Bedford rounded this off with a further converted try to leave Wells trailing by 25-10 at halftime.
Wells started the second half in better form but without a platform in the tight found it difficult to close the gap as they would have hoped. Player coach Dave Allen got a try on the Board from a line out catch and drive and Richard Webster picked up a well executed try converted by Reynolds. Further disruption though followed as scrum- half Edmonton received what appeared to be a serious ankle injury which caused a further delay to the game whilst he was treated. With this loss of momentum Wells then conceded a further penalty and an unconverted try to kill any chance of bonus points or victory. Little consolation that they took the second half despite the disruption 12-10.
Squad: Crosilla, Nicholls, Straeche, Earle, Josh Hawkins, Hathaway, Allen, N Doherty, Isbell. Edmonton, Reynolds, Murray, Montgomery, Bailey, M Doherty, Caddy, Webster, Taylor- Dennehy.
TUNBRIDGE WELLS RFC 1st XV. 31. BEDFORD ATHLETIC RFC 1st XV. 31.
Bedford Athletic made their first visit to Tunbridge Wells in this London and SE Premier League game and chose to play up the slope with the wind in the first half. This looked like a good choice as they took a 7-0 lead after 9 minutes as Wells fluffed a clearance kick. It took four further minutes for Wells to be back on terms as a handling move including returning skipper Ryan Taylor-Dennehy saw the ball into the hands of Matt Spicer who took his chance well to score in the corner with fly half Frank Reynolds pulling off a great conversion against the wind from the touchline.
By this time Wells had established a scrum dominance which they were to maintain for the rest of the game with Croall, Pankhurst and Crosilla turning the screw. Wells despite being against the wind handled well and occupied a high field position and increased their score on 16 minutes as Christian Earle finished a rolling maul and Reynolds again added the points 14-7. The game see-sawed from end to end for the next 16 minutes with both sides defences to the fore but Bedford drew Level on 31 minutes with a fine midfield passing movement which culminated in centre Sawford-Smith scoring under the posts and Mortimer converting 14-14. Soon afterwards the visitor’s skipper Rob Watkins got a yellow card and spent 10 minutes out of the game.
Wells though came straight back as the visitors made a handling error in midfield picked up by back row Josh Hawkins and continued through several hands to Nick Doherty who scored Wells third try with Reynolds getting the conversion for a half time lead of 21-14 and with the wind to come in the second half.
The general conclusion at halftime was that Bedford had not tactically used the conditions and Wells immediately on the restart put the ball in the top right hand corner of the pitch through fly half Reynolds and scrum half Charlie Rigby and kept the opposition trapped there for long periods. This territorial advantage saw Reynolds increase Wells lead on 52 minutes with a simple penalty 24-14. The period between that score and the 75th minute saw Bedford unable to get into the Wells half but apart from a slick handling move which looked like George Montgomery had scored a fourth try but pulled back for a marginal forward pass Wells could not breach the Bedford defence.
It took until the 75th minute for a fourteen phase ‘pick and drive ‘ battering of the Visitors line for the ball to move wide to Christian Earle who took his second try and the bonus well with Reynolds again adding the extras. 31-14.
This remained the score until injury time when the game took a completely different character with Bedford running the ball almost it seemed in desperation. It proved not to be desperation as a tiring Wells side with no ability to bring on fresh players from the bench were stretched wide with Bedford scoring unconverted tries on 80 and 83 minutes before scoring another right on full-time. Mortimer who had not until then had the best afternoon with the boot adding the extras to tie the game with time up.
Both sides gained 3 points for a draw and a try bonus but for Wells this was two points lost as they turn to their next game against CS Stags in West London this Saturday KO 3pm. The town side will look forward to getting some of their injured and unavailable back as they seek to play towards mid table by the end of the campaign.