Tunbridge Wells travelled to Hazelwood, Sunbury on Thames on Saturday hoping to repeat their win over London Irish Wildgeese at St Mark’s earlier in the season. Played under lights on a perfect pitch the game was to be heavily influenced by a strong cross field wind which affected both sides’ ability to put together consistent periods of play.
In a stop start first half, Wells were awarded a penalty on 17 minutes which Reynolds converted from 20 metres out, to go 3 nil up. Three minutes later this advantage was cancelled out when the home side were given a penalty on Wells’ 22 for offside. Three all. With the Wells scrum under pressure LIWG managed a sustained period of possession in midfield. Poor Wells tackling allowed Willie Lafolafo, the impressive LIWG flanker, to burst through for a converted try close to the posts on 30 minutes to give the home side a 10 – 3 advantage.
In the build-up to the try Wells’ hooker, Stuart Nicholls, suffered a cut to the head and had to leave the field being replaced by Josh Hawkins, with Nick Doherty moving to hooker. Wells came back in the remainder of the half with strong forward play keeping them in the LIWG 22 but they were unable to convert this territory into points.
Wells emerged for the second half with a more determined air and when LIWG were penalised at a lineout on the Wells 10 metre line the penalty was taken quickly and a 50 metre surge downfield resulted in Mike Doherty scoring a try which Reynolds converted. Ten all. On 53 minutes, quick thinking and precise handling resulted in the Wells running the ball from their own 22. They outpaced the opposition and captain, Ryan Taylor-Dennehy, scored in the corner. The wide out conversion was missed by Reynolds. Three minutes later Wells scored again when Mike Hathaway touched down under the posts following strong running from No 8, Nick Doherty, and Taylor-Dennehy. With the conversion Wells had turned the game around in a quarter of an hour and led 10 – 22.
However, LIWG did not crumble, and on 65 minutes following sustained pressure on the Wells’ line, the hardworking Lafolafo forced himself over close to the posts. A successful conversion closed the gap to 17-22 with 15 minutes to play.
However, the best was yet to come. Following a Wells scrum on half way the ball was moved quickly to left winger Max Hobbs who with great pace and scintillating footwork beat three defenders in running infield and successfully scoring under the posts, securing the try bonus point. Reynolds converted to make the score 17-29, and, despite energetic play from both sides in the final ten minutes, this was how the game ended. This leaves Tunbridge Wells seventh in the table on 47 points and LIWG fighting against relegation.
Wells next game will be on 15 February at St Mark’s against CS Stags 1863, 2.30 kick off.
By Alan Skinner
Elsewhere in the league…..
Rochford Hundred’s advantage at the top of the table over Guernsey is now just one point but they are more likely to delight in their 12-3 win over third placed Wimbledon than focus on this. They now have 84 points with the Channel Islanders on 83 after their resounding 10-52 win at CS Stags. Wimbledon stay on 75. Dorking’s equally comfortable 12-46 victory at a struggling Bedford Athletic means that they are now 4 clear (on 54 points) of Hertford and 6 ahead of Sevenoaks in 6th after these two fought out a 10-10 stalemate at Knole Paddock. We are now on 47 points in 7th just three ahead of Sidcup, who also banked a bonus point in a 32-17 win over bottom-placed Guildford.
There is then a 9 point gap to Brighton who’s fine 4 match winning run now sees them up to ninth on 35 points replacing Tring, after a 13-16 win on the road in Hertfordshire. None of the bottom four teams picked up any points so it’s then CS Stags (31), London Irish Wild Geese (27), Bedford Athletic (24) and Guildford (20).
Next Saturday heralds a “rest week”, but not for the players of Sidcup and Sevenoaks who play their rearranged fixture in South London. On the 15th when we host CS Stags, there is the always keenly contested Hertford v Tring “derby” and Sevenoaks go to Guernsey. Guildford will be wary of the Wimbledon backlash too….