Throwback Thursday – Sevenoaks v Tunbridge Wells December 2016

Following an extremely hard-fought 15-15 draw at St Marks, we travel up the A21 (well not exactly “up” the road itself given the ongoing roadworks) for this season’s second local derby game at Sevenoaks.

The hosts sit in 6th on 49 points and two places ahead of the Wells who have 47 points. We were, perhaps, fortunate to cling on for the draw in November so let’s get behind the lads with a large travelling support on Saturday……..

The game kicks off at 2.30 and is part of a double-header with our Super Twos playing against their Sevenoaks counterparts at 12.30.

And to whet the appetite, a look back to our last visit to Knole Paddock in December 2016…..

Sevenoaks 8 Tunbridge Wells 27

The season’s second A21 derby looked likely to be played in heavy fog but the sun had started to poke through by kick off time.

A healthy festive crowd at Sevenoaks eagerly anticipated the game following a very tight 10-3 win by Tunbridge Wells in September. Since then Wells had moved to third in the league whilst the hosts sat in seventh.

Tunbridge Wells made three changes, one positional, to the team that had won at Dover in the previous game. Ollie Lewis-Donaldson retuned at centre, enabling Nick Doherty to move back to number eight and Tom George started on the right wing.

Wells kicked off playing up the hill and took an early lead on four minutes when Frank Reynolds slotted a fine penalty goal from 35 metres. 0-3. However, this simply stirred Sevenoaks into action and an excellent move created by outside half Isaac Winter saw full back Dan Phoenix out speed the defence to score a try in the right hand corner. He could not convert his try but after 6 minutes the home team were ahead.5-3.

The game was tense and edgy and there was a lot of kicking in these initial phases but it was the hosts who looked to be playing the more adventurous rugby. Winter and number 8 Simon Humble were very much to the fore. As is to be expected this was a very physical, bruising affair and Wells’ prop Chris Goodyer put in one particularly thunderous tackle on his opposite number which led to an important Reynolds clearance kick.

On 18 minutes the visitors had to make a significant re-organisation when they lost full back Hayden Pope to a foot injury. This saw the versatile George move to full back and Adam Webb come on to the right wing.

Sevenoaks clearly had the territorial edge at this stage despite the occasional glimpse of attacking intent from Doherty and wing Jake Jones. Several times they started to build pressure but fine Wells defence held them out. Man of the match Jake Mills was beginning to exert his influence and he made a very telling turnover on 28 minutes.

On 36 minutes, Wells were awarded another penalty after a tackle offence and Reynolds, who is in a fine vein of kicking form, made no mistake. 5-6. Back came Sevenoaks though and it took a fine combination between Doherty and Reynolds to alleviate pressure. However, this was only temporary and when they were adjudged offside shortly afterwards, Phoenix slotted the three points. 8-6. Soon after home stalwart Ollie Robinson made his 100th club appearance at 1st XV level from the bench to a great ovation.

As half time arrived it was Wells that were on attack with the first signs of a changed momentum that was to continue, to the delight of the travelling support, into the second period. Jones and the increasingly influential Reynolds combined with flanker Mike Hathaway but the referee’s whistle brought an intensely competitive half to a close.

As has been the case in several recent derby games at The Paddock, Wells hit the ground running in the second half down the hill. Hayden Pengelly was now on for Charlie Dagwell. Skipper Chaz Spence was gradually getting on top of his opposite number and with Mills and fellow lock Andy Burgess carrying well, there was a real impetus being gained by the boys from St Marks. A series of penalty kicks at goal were turned down in favour of line-outs and rolling mauls and these were beginning to look increasingly ominous for the home side. Finally, after three powerful drives in a row it was Mills who crashed over for a first Tunbridge Wells try on 48 minutes. A superb touch line conversion by Reynolds made it 8-13.

On 51 minutes Mills and centre Charlie Harding combined to release the ever dangerous Jones but his attacking run was thwarted by good home defence. Whilst the scrums were pretty much at parity despite strong efforts from the Wells front row of Nick Blacklock, Jake Thompson and Goodyer, the visiting line-out was functioning superbly well and it was proving a valuable weapon as time and again it was used to set up powerful mauls. Done well a rolling maul can be a thing of beauty and be almost impossible to stop and after an excellent Pengelly turnover brought a penalty one such maul went fully 30 metres before being held up at the very last.

Sevenoaks were trying to get back in the game but having played the better rugby in the first period they now seemed to lack direction as Spence and Reynolds kept up the pressure with some precise handling and kicking. On the hour Lewis-Donaldson escaped only to be thwarted by an illegal tackle. Again, the ball was kicked to touch as Wells endeavoured to turn the screw. Goodyer combined with Hathaway and when the attacking maul was thwarted illegally home hooker Scott Sedgwick was shown a yellow card. Another line-out was set up and when this one was pulled down, the referee’s patience was exhausted and he awarded the penalty try. With Reynolds converting Wells now had daylight. 8-20.

The game was opening up with Doherty prominent and when Oaks did look dangerous Webb and George combined superbly to snuff out the threat. On 72 minutes Harding, Lewis-Donaldson and Jones combined but as the try looked likely to come the scoring pass was adjudged forward. Wells were not to be denied though. They won the scrum against the head and after a Lewis-Donaldson surge, it was the highly impressive Mills who powered over for his second try. Another top quality Reynolds conversion stretched the lead to 8-27.

Stuart Nicholls replaced Goodyer and Wells continued on the front foot as they sought the bonus point try. Under pressure Sevenoaks received a second yellow card but despite Pengelly going close it was not to be. However, this should not distract from a superb second half performance by Tunbridge Wells, as good as anything they have showed all campaign, which simply blew away a talented and competitive Sevenoaks side. Wells remain in third place and it is time now to recuperate and repair bruised bodies over the Christmas period ahead of the visit of fifth-placed Tottonians to St Marks for a 2pm kick off on 7th January.”

#oneTWRFC

Graham Withers

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