34 - 36
Tunbridge Wells Vs. Guernsey
A narrow defeat for Wells but an outstanding performance against top class opposition…
This London and SE Premier league game against the early and highly tipped promotion candidates Guernsey RFC had all the hall marks of the same outcome as the Barnes game the week before as Wells were hit for 14 points in the first 14 minutes as Guernsey came out of the blocks fast and physically.
The early onslaught leading to a brace of tries from visiting No 8 Doug Horrocks as Wells barely laid a finger on the ball. However, from the 14th minute on and despite losing hooker Luke Hawkins to another yellow card during this period Wells came into the game with a vengeance utilising the additional fire power and skills of Alex Burman and Dave Allen in the pack and the speed of Mike Doherty in the backs as they all made seasons league debuts for Wells.
As the home side started to get some ball- predominantly from turnover- after aggressive tackling they worked their way back into the game and after a passing movement on the right got behind Guernsey on the right after 21 minutes for the returning Mike Doherty to score with Frank Reynolds converting 7-14. It took just another 4 minutes for Academy star Richard Webster to score Wells’ second try as he showed pace and strength which was prominent all afternoon 12-14 and only another 5 minutes for Chas Dagwell to add to the list of try scorers as he took advantage of a dribbled ball down the right by backrow partner Hayden Pengelly. 17-14.
Wells had destroyed Guernsey’s early dominance with incisive back play and back row turnover ball but Guernsey always threatened danger particularly from strong running full back Anthony Armstrong and centre Ned Brown. With halftime approaching Frank Reynolds put Wells further into the lead with a penalty 20-14 but could not reach halftime retaining it as Armstrong outstripped the Wells defence to score Guernsey’s third try and for Owen Thomas to convert to give them a one point halftime lead of 20-21 and all to play for with win points and bonuses in the second half.
If the pace had been fast and furious in the first half then Guernsey had no intention of letting it drop in the second and neither had Wells. However, it was Guernsey who started the stronger and it was Thomas who added a penalty on 45 minutes to widen the visitors lead to 20-24. Again Wells spirit and belief shone through as the backs worked a good midfield position and young fly half Frank Reynolds ran a great line to score the bonus point for four tries and converted his own score on 48 minutes as the lead returned to the Home side 27-24. Guernsey came thundering back down the slope and after a succession of penalties were awarded a penalty try as they drove towards the Wells line on 53 minutes and the lead transferred again to the Channel islanders. 27-31. Wells were not done , however, as they produced the try of the afternoon as Dave Allen , back on the field, showed tremendous pace to run at the right corner offloading to Blaise Salle who ran strongly through the Guernsey defence for try number 5 converted by Reynolds and the lead back to Wells 34-31.
At this point it was still anyone’s game but Wells despite mounting further attacks could not quite get the continuity to turn it into points as they incurred the wrath of the referee at the set scrummage and found it difficult to secure tidy line out ball. Despite this and a fair amount of injury time it looked like the home side would win a famous victory but clearly this Guernsey side was not going to lay down and let the points go. Despite valiant defence from Wells particularly from centre Shaydn Osgood and from the back row and despite a very promising debut at scrum half for an injured Chas Spence from Max Douche Guernsey kept working the corner and on 77 minutes managed to get Anthony Armstrong on the overlap over in the corner for an unconverted try 34-36.
Wells just could not get out of midfield to threaten in the last few minutes but this game was a mighty close thing for either side as a relieved Guernsey kicked the ball out to end a game where Wells had an equal chance of the 5 points on offer. As it was they had to settle for 2 bonus points but they know the pace of the side and the ability to handle at this speed will catch a number of sides in this league out.
This Saturday Wells travel to Tring KO 3 00pm for another difficult away game against a side who won the London 1 North title last year.
Squad: Crosilla, Hawkins, Straeche, McGarvie, Earle, Burman, Pengelly, Allen, Doherty N, Dagwell, Salle, Spence, Reynolds, Webster, Osgood, Doherty M, Douch, Taylor- Dennehy