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.
A narrow defeat for Wells but an outstanding performance against top class opposition…
This London and SE Premier league game against the early and highly tipped promotion candidates Guernsey RFC had all the hall marks of the same outcome as the Barnes game the week before as Wells were hit for 14 points in the first 14 minutes as Guernsey came out of the blocks fast and physically.
The early onslaught leading to a brace of tries from visiting No 8 Doug Horrocks as Wells barely laid a finger on the ball. However, from the 14th minute on and despite losing hooker Luke Hawkins to another yellow card during this period Wells came into the game with a vengeance utilising the additional fire power and skills of Alex Burman and Dave Allen in the pack and the speed of Mike Doherty in the backs as they all made seasons league debuts for Wells.
As the home side started to get some ball- predominantly from turnover- after aggressive tackling they worked their way back into the game and after a passing movement on the right got behind Guernsey on the right after 21 minutes for the returning Mike Doherty to score with Frank Reynolds converting 7-14. It took just another 4 minutes for Academy star Richard Webster to score Wells’ second try as he showed pace and strength which was prominent all afternoon 12-14 and only another 5 minutes for Chas Dagwell to add to the list of try scorers as he took advantage of a dribbled ball down the right by backrow partner Hayden Pengelly. 17-14.
Wells had destroyed Guernsey’s early dominance with incisive back play and back row turnover ball but Guernsey always threatened danger particularly from strong running full back Anthony Armstrong and centre Ned Brown. With halftime approaching Frank Reynolds put Wells further into the lead with a penalty 20-14 but could not reach halftime retaining it as Armstrong outstripped the Wells defence to score Guernsey’s third try and for Owen Thomas to convert to give them a one point halftime lead of 20-21 and all to play for with win points and bonuses in the second half.
If the pace had been fast and furious in the first half then Guernsey had no intention of letting it drop in the second and neither had Wells. However, it was Guernsey who started the stronger and it was Thomas who added a penalty on 45 minutes to widen the visitors lead to 20-24. Again Wells spirit and belief shone through as the backs worked a good midfield position and young fly half Frank Reynolds ran a great line to score the bonus point for four tries and converted his own score on 48 minutes as the lead returned to the Home side 27-24. Guernsey came thundering back down the slope and after a succession of penalties were awarded a penalty try as they drove towards the Wells line on 53 minutes and the lead transferred again to the Channel islanders. 27-31. Wells were not done , however, as they produced the try of the afternoon as Dave Allen , back on the field, showed tremendous pace to run at the right corner offloading to Blaise Salle who ran strongly through the Guernsey defence for try number 5 converted by Reynolds and the lead back to Wells 34-31.
At this point it was still anyone’s game but Wells despite mounting further attacks could not quite get the continuity to turn it into points as they incurred the wrath of the referee at the set scrummage and found it difficult to secure tidy line out ball. Despite this and a fair amount of injury time it looked like the home side would win a famous victory but clearly this Guernsey side was not going to lay down and let the points go. Despite valiant defence from Wells particularly from centre Shaydn Osgood and from the back row and despite a very promising debut at scrum half for an injured Chas Spence from Max Douche Guernsey kept working the corner and on 77 minutes managed to get Anthony Armstrong on the overlap over in the corner for an unconverted try 34-36.
Wells just could not get out of midfield to threaten in the last few minutes but this game was a mighty close thing for either side as a relieved Guernsey kicked the ball out to end a game where Wells had an equal chance of the 5 points on offer. As it was they had to settle for 2 bonus points but they know the pace of the side and the ability to handle at this speed will catch a number of sides in this league out.
This Saturday Wells travel to Tring KO 3 00pm for another difficult away game against a side who won the London 1 North title last year.
Squad: Crosilla, Hawkins, Straeche, McGarvie, Earle, Burman, Pengelly, Allen, Doherty N, Dagwell, Salle, Spence, Reynolds, Webster, Osgood, Doherty M, Douch, Taylor- Dennehy