Westcliff (Home)

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,
Allman.

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

Westcliff (Home)

Wells took to a relatively dry St Marks pitch with Matt Spicer starting for the injured Max Douch, with Hayden Pengelly returning to the back row after injury and with Dave Allen moving to the bench.

The home side proceeded to dominate this London and SE premier division game in the first quarter as they played up the hill defending the Sussex end of the ground. This period featured some sharp inter passing, great running angles at pace and some very effective defence as 5th placed Westcliff looked to put their mark on the game after a great win against Barnes last week.

Wells had threatened on two other occasions before they got points on the Board as Shaydn Osgood and Mike Doherty interpassed on the left for Doherty to do a great job in getting the ball down as he dived into the left corner. Fly half Frank Reynolds bringing his usual accuracy to a conversion from the touchline 7-0 on 14 minutes.

Westcliff enjoyed possession during this period as well and Wells performed magnificently in defence close to the 20 minute mark as they defended 14 phases of play with Westcliff recycling accurately but never really getting over the gain line.

With 21 minutes gone and some accurate prompting from the boot of fly half Reynolds Matt Spicer and Reynolds exchanged passes at speed before setting wing Blaise Salle free to score the try again converted by Reynolds 14-0.

Wells created several other opportunities as the game progressed towards the 30 minute mark but Westcliff also saw action as their left wing was bundled to touch some 3 metres out with the defending side clearing their lines from the ensuing line out, as hooker Luke Hawkins left the field to be replaced by Kyle  McGarvie.

Wells came close on a number of other occasions most notably when No 8 Nick Doherty put in a brilliant break in midfield and then an inch perfect kick in front of the Wells backs. It looked as if Matt Spicer would score but he just failed to gather the bouncing ball 10 metres out. Wells also scorned kicking potential penalties as Reynolds kicked them to the corner only for Wells line out to malfunction as they were pulled up for not straight in promising positions. As it was halftime was reached with the home supporters thinking their side would have been value for another seven points and with Westcliff still just in the game at 14-0.

Wells came out of the changing room for the second half having to make changes as influential fly half Frank Reynolds suffered a recurrence of a shoulder injury with Ryan Taylor-Dennehy moving to 10 and Academy product Richard Webster assuming the full back duties.

With Wells now playing down the hill the side upped their pace with Man of the Match Mike Hathaway, returnee Hayden Pengelly and Nick Doherty outstanding and backed up by the pace of Christian Earle and Owain Withers putting Westcliff under pressure in their own half. It was all three of the back row who carried in a move instigated by Nick Doherty that saw Hayden Pengelly score try number 3 on 46 minutes which Taylor- Dennehy narrowly missed the conversion for. 19-0 on 46 minutes.

Westcliff then dominated the next 10 minutes of play working the left hand touchline and with their set scrum gaining some ascendancy as Dave Allen joined the fray on 58 minutes for Pengelly. Within 2 minutes of Allen’s arrival Wells had their try bonus as the side drove from the line out, held the ball in and then released with a delightful blind side pass to wing Matt Spicer (from skipper Chas Spence) who got in at the left corner for the fourth try. 24-0 on 60 minutes.

It was credit to Westcliff who had taken a bit of a battering and run mainly across the field that they competitively came back into the game in the last 20 minutes preventing Wells from any further score and picking up a converted push over try from their Man of the Match No 8 Joe Vandermolen. This was the last sniff on 68 minutes that Wells gave Westcliff of their line as they demonstrated sound game management  to bring home a very impressive 6th win of the season, despite the loss of their hooker and fly half for a fair proportion of the game.

Wells now need to keep this mini run of wins going as still in 7th place they visit Guildford KO 2 00pm next Saturday as they look to see if they can force their way back into the top six.

Squad: Carl Straeche, Luke Hawkins, ( Kyle McGarvie,), Brendan Crosilla, Christian Earle, Owain Withers, Hayden Pengelly, ( Dave Allen), Mike Hathaway, Nick Doherty, Chas Spence, Frank Reynolds,  Blaise Salle, Shaydn Osgood, Mike Doherty, Matt Spicer, Ryan Taylor-Dennehy, Richard Webster.