Wells kicked off the first game of 2019 in calm conditions and with a near perfect pitch to play on against bottom side Shelford in this London and SE Premier Division game.
Dave Allen and George Montgomery both remained on the injured list with Luke Hawkins and Jake Caddy replacing them.
The home side started the slower of the two and for the first few minutes found it difficult to generate pace or space as a result. Shelford for their part were quicker but a little lateral in their movement. Nevertheless it was the visitors who looked more like scoring missing a relatively simple penalty on 2 minutes and then scoring a try down the left as Wells lost possession and then completely misjudged the kick ahead to see Lewis Cracknell go in for an unconverted try after 5 minute 0-5.

Wells then had more of the ball but had a tendency to lose possession in the collision.
However, they did occupy a higher field position and on 16 minutes Nick Doherty made a telling burst on the right to feed Mike Hathaway who took the perfect line to score and for Frank Reynolds to convert. 7-5.
Wells continued to create chances going close before a knock- on in the 21st minute and dominating the line out and scrum. Scores would not come, however,due to the spirit of the Shelford team and an inability to keep possession in the loose.
It was not until the last 10 minutes of the half that the town side found some continuity and cohesion as they first took advantage of a poor kick ahead to counter attack with the ball being moved smartly to centre Mike Doherty who carved the perfect outside break and then cut into the posts for the try with Reynolds adding the extras on 39 minutes 14-5.
Finally in the 41st minute Wells countered from even deeper as they turned the ball over in their own 22 with Nick Doherty carrying for 40 meters before passing onto Christian Earle in space who got to five metres before handing the try to the supporting wing Richard Webster in the right corner for an unconverted try and a halftime lead of 19-5.

With Wells playing towards Frant in the second half many on the touchline expected play to be in that direction but the cohesion achieved prior to the break seemed to have been lost in the changing room and despite dominating the set pieces Wells continued to lose the ball in the loose. An attempted clearance kick down the right was executed poorly in the 52nd minute which allowed Shelford to get up steam and feed the ball to their outstanding young second row Fred Betteridge who got over for an unconverted try 19-10.
This try seemed to sting Wells who enjoyed a period of play where with the back row and the pack in general driving forward they pinned Shelford on their line. First Mike Doherty was hauled down 6 inches short of the line and Wells were then awarded a penalty within seconds which they opted to scrummage. The Wells 8 drove over the line for No 8 Nick Doherty to get the touch down and the bonus point try on 64 minutes. 26-10.

At this point most felt the job had been done despite the spirit of the Shelford side.
However, that old friend indiscipline cropped up again with second row Josh Hawkins getting a yellow on 72 minutes. This did not prevent substitute Scrum half Anthony Storkey making a supercharged run down the right touchline to be hauled down metres short of the try line by an outstanding tackle from Shelford full back Shingai Chiwanga.
There was still time for Wells to go down to 13 men for the last 4 minutes of the game as Matt Spicer took an offside yellow for the team as they successfully kept the visitors at bay until the final whistle.

Wells now have to make sure that the all of the ring rustiness from the Christmas break has gone in order to bring back points from third placed Westcliff next week KO 2 00 pm. To do this they will have to play in more than patches as they seek to continue the move towards the top half of the table.

Roger Clarke.

Shelford RFC vs Tunbridge Wells RFC

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The weekend saw Tunbridge Wells travel to Shelford (and their artificial pitch) looking to right the wrongs of their heavy defeat to Wimbledon the previous week. Shelford finished 7th in the league last year, two places below Wells and had endured a tough start to the season with defeats to Sidcup and then Hertford. Each side won their home fixture between the teams last year and a competitive game was predicted.

There were a number of changes to the squad. An injury in training saw fly-half Frank Reynolds drop out of the side and Charlie Rigby moved from 9 to 10. Fellow junior product Max Edmonton, who has returned to the club after a near two year absence, started at scrum half. Captain Ryan Taylor-Dennehy moved to 13 as Rich Webster missed out through injury, Ollie Allman and Max Hobbs returned to the first team fold at fullback and wing respectively with Chester Clough the back reserve. The forwards saw changes too as Carl Straeche started at tighthead after impressing off the bench last week, with Brendan Crosilla onto the bench. Player coach Dave Allen made his first appearance of the season at flanker and new recruit Josh Hawkins started at second row with fellow newcomer Jamie Farris starting as sub.

On a warm and slightly breezy afternoon Shelford came out of the blocks very quickly. First blood went to Wells however, after a surging run by the back row of Hathaway and Allen and were rewarded with a penalty in front of the posts which Edmonton converted easily. Shelford came straight back retaining possession time after time frustrating Wells and this was soon rewarded after 8 minutes when Shelford were camped on the Wells line for the scrum half to jink his way through three poor Wells tackles to dive over the line between the posts. This was successfully converted. Wells then started to get back into the game but poor kicking out of hand and poor handling errors saw them losing possession and losing territory. Shelford again recycled the ball well and after 9 or 10 phases were rewarded again when Wells gave another penalty away on their 10 meter line. The Shelford full back stepped up and accurately converted to make the score. The game then went into a stalemate position with both sides making surging runs but turnover ball thwarting both sides. On 27 minutes Shelford increased their lead with a penalty kicked by their 15 from almost the same spot as previously.

Crosilla then replaced Straeche and the Shelford pack began to wilt. Strong running from Doherty, Hathaway and Allen lead the charge, followed by carries from Bailey saw Wells putting more and more pressure on the Shelford side who were starting to look tired. Hawkins began making a nuisance of himself and Wells had their heads up. All this pressure was rewarded after a solid 5 metre scrum saw skipper Ryan Taylor-Dennehy crash over just on half time, successfully converted by Edmonton, leaving the score 13-10 at half time.
Wells came out the second half full of energy and scored very quickly through Doherty and then soon after by Tom Bailey, who had a very strong game in the Centre. Edmonton converted bringing the score to 22-13. Wells continued the pressure through the scrummaging of Williams, Pankhurst and Straeche and again Wells scored with the pack powering their way over the line with Doherty touching down for his second try, again Edmonton converting, 13-29. Continued possession, strong running and constant pressure saw Wells striking again, this time with an excellent chip and chase for Ryan Taylor-Dennehy to go over for his second try, taking the score to 13-34.
Jamie Farris then replaced the workhorse of Josh Hawkins for his debut , however Shelford found their second wind and started to play their way back into the game with a try coming from their centre, converted and soon after on 79mins, what seemed to be a successful turnover Farris was sent to the bin for being off his feet. Shelford took advantage of the extra man and scored a converted try on 80 minutes. Final score 27-34.

Wells will take heart from this game, knowing that it was a much improved performance compared to the week before, however with next weeks’ encounter with Westcliff at home, unbeaten this Season, they know they will have to step up another gear to compete.

Shelford (Away)

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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.

Shelford (Home)

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Wells excel in their first outing in the London Premier…..

Conditions were perfect underfoot and overhead for the Wells first taste of London Premier Division Rugby in front of a good early season crowd of over 200 at St Marks.

If Shelford – who had inadvertently arrived late having visited TJ’s ground- needed any announcement of intent from newly promoted Tunbridge Wells they did not have to wait long as some very quick and precise handling in the Wells backs released centre Dylan Barkas who powerfully reached the line under the posts for fly half Frank Reynolds to convert and give the home side a 7-0 lead after 6 minutes. This was despite being down to 14 men as hooker Luke Hawkins had been yellow carded for a high tackle after 4 minutes of play.

At this stage an overview of the game revealed that the Shelford set scrummage was strong and their lineout very efficient but that the Wells back row were winning the loose battle and the Wells backs were sharper and more precise in attack.
Despite this Shelford winger Charlie Parkhouse got away from the cover from a counter attack on 16 minutes to pull the score back to 7-5.

Wells continued to dominate in open play with turnovers coming at regular intervals but a succession of penalties against meant promising positions were lost.

However, the period between 28 and 33 minutes displayed a purple patch of Rugby as first Frank Reynolds converted a penalty 10-5 and then after quick hands again Ryan Taylor – Dennehy ( restored to the Wells scene after a sojourn in China) burst through the middle leaving several players in his wake to score with Reynolds again adding the conversion on 30 mins to extend the lead to 17-5. Wells were not finished , however, as Shelford could find no answer defensively to the pace and balance of their backs as on 38 minutes fly Half Frank Reynolds got in on the act to support his centres Barkas and Osgood to score and convert his own try 24-5.
Shelford at this point could have been shell shocked but they were by no means out of the game as on the stroke of halftime their scrum half Ross Kevan threw a dummy to a rare gap in the Wells defence to score untouched with fly half Josh Simmons kicking the points to give a half time score of 24-12.
The Wells faithful might have felt that with a downhill half to come Wells would cement a win early on but Shelford- a team with a reputation for good second halves had other ideas. If pace and accuracy and turn over ball had been the themes of the first half for the home side defence and continued turnovers under pressure became the theme of the second half not helped by a second yellow card issued for a team offense to Charlie Dagwell.

Wells were often pressured in their own half but some immense tackling particularly from Shadyn Osgood and from Ryan Taylor – Dennehy who produced two try saving efforts at the corner flag kept Shelford out until the 66 th minute. At this point a tiring Wells defence was leaving the odd gap at the edges emphasised by the yellow card and Shelford spotted this moving the ball quickly up the right and then inside to centre Grant Anderson who scored under the posts for Simmons to convert and reduce the gap to 24-19.

Despite the Wells pack doing a manful job at the set piece with quick channel ball setting No 8 Nick Doherty free to attack Wells had not scored in the second half and had to wait until the last minute of ordinary time to widen the gap to 27-19 with a long range penalty from Reynolds.
Shelford realising they could at best pick up a try bonus and another bonus for being within 7 points threw caution to the wind as they battled to get out of their half as Wells started to produce some of their first half form. Osgood continued to produce some shuddering tackles which produced loose ball and on 83 minutes back row Hayden Pengelly latched onto one of these in the loose and released left wing Matt Spicer who made no mistake to go under the posts having travelled the wing corridor and for Reynolds again to convert 34-19.

If the crowd were satisfied with this though the players were not and with their tails up more spilt ball saw centre Dylan Barkas latch on to more loose ball and go some 40 metres to the left corner despite being slowed by some despairing tackles to produce a final score with a 20 point gap and a bonus point for tries scored.
The coaching team of Simon Whatling and Dave Allen must have been satisfied with the way in which the team had been prepared, a little concerned with the penalty count and yellow card tally but delighted with the pace and accuracy of the backs, the overall ferocity of tackling and the turn overs created by the back row and team in general.
Now back to the drawing board for a challenging visit this Saturday to Barnes relegated from National 2 South at the end of the season K O 3- 00pm.

Squad: Kyle McGarvie, Luke Hawkins, Brendan Crossilla, Carl Straeche, Mac Topham, Christian Earle, Hayden Pengelly, Charlie Dagwell, Nick Doherty, Chas Spence, Frank Reynolds, Matt Spicer, Dylan Barkas, Shadyn Osgood, Max Douch, Ryan Taylor- Dennehy,, Richard Webster.

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