TUNBRIDGE WELLS RFC 1ST XV. 13. WESTCLIFF RFC 1ST XV. 19.
This fourth league fixture of the new season saw Wells face an undefeated Essex side in intermittent rain. Wells continued to change their back line to reflect current injuries and unavailability with Charlie Rigby back at 9, Frank Taylor returning from injury at 10, skipper RYAN Taylor-Dennehy in the centre and Max Douch returning from University.,
Wells found themselves playing up the hill in the first half and fairly regularly incurring the displeasure of the referee. This saw Westcliff into a 0-6 lead after 12 minutes as their fly half Ben McKeith kicked two simple penalties as Wells went off their feet in greasy conditions. Penalties were not all one way ,however, as Frank Reynolds pulled one back on 15 minutes only for Wells to concede another in front on 20 minutes for McKeith to stretch the score to 3-9. With both defences looking miserly it was no surprise that on 25 minutes Reynolds kicked another penalty for Wells to narrow the gap to 6-9. The next 10 minutes was to decide the result of the game as Westcliff No 8 Jim Smith was yellow carded and Wells launched themselves at the visitors line yet couldn’t quite get over. Breaking out Westcliff appeared to have taken out a Wells centre but play continued and right wing Ross Merrick got over in the corner with McKeith converting from the touchline. 6-16. Wells could have replied as the 40minutes were up but were forced out following a diagonal kick to the corner to leave them looking at a difficult but not impossible task in the second half down the slope.
The halftime talk clearly identified more direct tactics and having pinned Westcliff on their own line within 5 minutes of the restart Wells showed patience with the pick and drive for prop Ben Williams to burrow over for a try converted by Frank Reynolds. 13-16.
With this score early in the third quarter Wells could and should have gone on to take the game. Several promising moves, however, were spoilt by inaccurate kicking from hand and lack of patience when driving the narrow channels. The home side went further behind to yet another simple penalty for McKeith on 47 minutes but continued to dominate possession and position. Two periods of recycling close to the Westcliff line should have seen Wells home but a combination of impatience and inconsistent tactics coupled with an outstanding defensive performance from Westcliff saw Wells thwarted in terms of adding to the scoreboard despite two attempts at diagonal kick passes and a 14 phase close range attack as injury time beckoned which was finally snuffed out as the ball was moved wide and into touch. Full time came with Wells scratching their heads and wondering how they had lost.
Despite the disappointment of a home loss against the current second side Wells did get a losing bonus point. They can take encouragement from a stable scrum, secure ball from Mike Hathaway and Christian Earle in the line out from the accurate throwing of Josh Pankhurst and a combative second half performance from the back row. Wells must build on this as they travel to Guildford for a 3 00 pm KO this Saturday in order to bring back the points.
Squad: Williams, Pankhurst, Crosilla, Mcgarvie, L Hawkins, Earle, Hawkins J, Pentney, Allen, Hathaway, N Doherty, Rigby, Reynolds, Spicer, Bailey, Taylor-Dennehy, Douch,