Match Report: Guernsey 27 – 11 TWRFC
This was a tough first fixture of 2018 for Wells as they had an early morning start to catch the flight to Guernsey where the Premier division leaders lay in wait. The rain held off and pitch conditions were good as Wells took the field in front of the Island’s supporters and a number of past Tunbridge Wells inhabitants now living in the Channel Islands.
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.