Sutton & Epsom 26 – 27 TWRFC
Match report by Owain Withers
Tunbridge Wells travelled to Sutton and Epsom for the first time in several seasons for the sixth game in their London South East Premier Division campaign. Injuries from the previous week’s impressive win over Towcestrians saw recalls for club stalwart Tim Collins at prop, Alex Burman at lock and Hayden Pengelly at flanker with Ciaran Lee and Matt Spicer coming on to the bench.
The game began cagily but exploded into life on 8 minutes. A scrappy line out win left Wells with a ruck on their own 22, with merely a few feet of blindside to work with Charles Spence made a quick dart along the touchline and exploded up the field, the ball was moved to the supporting Pengelly who fed Max Douch and he sprinted to the try line from halfway to score, conversion missed, 0-5. The game continued to be fairly even and S&E took the points on offer when awarded a penalty on the left hand side, 3-5.
Spence was making a strong start to the game and again exploited the fringes to make a break from half way. However as the tryline beckoned the attempted pass to the support was gathered by the oppositions retreating 9.
S&E were next to score on 20 minutes, a strong maul rolled them up the field and their fly half went over for the score, 8-5. Their rolling maul was used to good effect again 10 minutes later, this time resulting directly in a try, 13-5. Between the two S&E scores Wells unfortunately lost Burman to a head injury with Mac Popham replacing him.
S&E had been the better side for the middle portion of the first half but Wells certainly dominated the end of it. Wells had an opportunity for points after a strong run by Douch from the back of a maul led to a penalty for not rolling away, the penalty was missed but the pressure was about to tell. A good backs move led to Blaise Salle being held up in the left hand corner but the ensuing scrum resulted in a try. Nick Doherty broke off the scrum to place the pass to his brother Mike who despite fumbling it managed to force his way over, 13-10. With only a few minutes left on the clock until half time Wells managed to build further phases which resulted in a penalty slightly to the right of the posts which was kicked by Reynolds, 13-13. The penalty offence saw the opposition 7 sent to the bin.
The balance of play from the first half was fairly reflected by the score. Both teams had good passages of play but had plenty to improve on heading into the second half but it certainly came at a better time for the home side.
Despite the man deficit S&E started the second half much stronger and after a few minutes led 20-13. Wells conceded a free kick for an early push at the scrum 5 metres in front of their own posts and after a few phases the home side were over. They then further extended their lead, when Pengelly was penalised for not rolling away at the ruck and given a yellow for his troubles. The penalty was kicked, 23-13.
With half hour remaining Wells stepped up their game and it was their turn to use the rolling maul to great effect. The first maul,off their much improved line out from previous weeks, surged from the 10 metre line to the opposition 22. It was only halted when it was illegally pulled down with S&E’s no.8 sent to the bin. Wells put the ball into the corner and set the maul again, it fell short of the line but Spence was there to burrow over. Reynolds nailed the conversion 15 metres to the left of the posts, 23-20.
Following the try there was a 10 minute period where neither side managed to dominate the game as both sides looked for territory. On the hour mark Dave Allen made a surging run upfield after picking and going from the ruck. However when the momentum was halted and Wells were penalised at the ruck, S&E went back up the pitch. It was at this time that Shaydn Osgood was penalised in front of Wells’ posts for what can only be presumed as hitting the opposition player too hard! The penalty awarded was much to the disbelief of the players and crowd but the result was a 26-20 scoreline.
With 10 minutes remaining Wells took the lead for the first time in the game. Nick Doherty did well to secure the ball at the back of the scrum, it was worked out to the backs and Ryan Taylor-Dennehy dotted down in the left hand corner; Reynolds struck a terrific conversion to make it 26-27.
The remaining 10 minutes was the most physical of the game as both sides defended resolutely and attempted to move up the field. On 73 minutes S&E set a maul 30 metres out but play was stopped and Mike Hathaway was shown a red card having been adjudged to have struck an opponent. However this meant the home team had a chance to take the lead, but the penalty was missed. Wells had 7 minutes to hold out with 14 men and they were doing so stoutly until 79 minutes played. The referee then penalised Wells for being in front of the kicker and after much deliberation the penalty was awarded on the right hand side 30 metres out from the try line and 10 metres from touch. Much to the travelling sides relief the kick was missed again and the visitors defended successfully for the remaining minute to secure the bonus point win.
It was a well deserved, hard-fought win for Tunbridge Wells, however S&E will believe they could and maybe should have won it. This terrific team effort sees Wells move up to 8th in the league with intentions of building on their 3 wins from their first 6 games in London South East Premier and games like this stand them in good stead.
Squad: Ryan Taylor-Dennehy; Blaise Salle, Shaydn Osgood, Mike Doherty, Max Douch (Matt Spicer); Frank Reynolds, Chaz Spence (Capt); Tim Collins (Ciaran Lee), Luke Hawkins, Carl Straeche, Mike Hathaway, Alex Burman (Mac Popham), Hayden Pengelly, Dave Allen, Nick Doherty.