30 - 32
Tunbridge Wells Vs. Hertford
After an excellent win last week against Westcombe Park- which was the town side’s third consecutive win taking them to 6th place in RFU London and SE Premier Division – Wells faced 4th placed Hertford at St Marks.
Frank Reynolds failed to pass a fitness test on his shoulder after a run of 46 consecutive games and Wells moved Ryan Taylor-Dennehy to fly half and brought in Ollie Allman at full back with Academy product Tom Brunger as a replacement prop on the bench. Jake Thompson also returning to the bench after injury against Barnes earlier in the season.
Both sides are known for their running style of play and none of the 200 plus crowd were to be disappointed on that score as the afternoon unfolded.
Wells started on the attack and reached the Hertford 22 playing up the hill only to lose the ball in the tackle and watch Hertford demonstrate the art of counter attack as they went the length of the field to the right for an ultimate score under the posts by centre Richard Streets. With prolific full back Sean Taylor converting 0-7 after 2 mins. Hertford continued to attack and Wells did well after 10 minutes to hold them up over the line but could do little about the penalty kicked by Taylor after 15 minutes for a home infringement on the floor 0-10.
Wells are a spirited and incisive side these days though and with the line out operating smoothly and enough control in the set scrum they set about occupying Hertford territory with player coach Dave Allen everywhere. On 18 minutes Wells countered and Mac Popham dived gleefully over the line for Taylor-Dennehy to convert 7-10.
With Wells continuing to occupy a high field position Taylor Dennehy brought the points tally to parity with a 35 meter penalty on 24 minutes 10-10 only for Taylor to restore Hertford’s lead with a penalty of his own on 26 minutes 10-13.
Both sides continued to play at pace but despite several 40 metre incursions neither side could add to their tally before halftime with Wells having to pull off some really effective tackles close to the line through Osgood, M Doherty and Taylor–Dennehy close to the line to keep Hertford at bay.
If the first half had been a pacy and relatively open game then the second half proved one of the best seen at St Marks for a long time. Taylor Dennehy hit a 38 metre penalty after 50 minutes to tie the score at 13-13 and the home side were hoping for more from referee Ben McNamara as their rolling maul was stopped close to the Hertford try line.
With 54 minutes gone Wells broke out of their 22 hacked on down the pitch and had Hertford at their mercy as Matt Spicer and Skipper Chas Spence bore down on the line only for the ball to bobble as Spicer reached down to pick up and the chance was gone.
Their followed two purple patches of play as between the 58th and 67th minutes Hertford opened up what appeared to be an unassailable lead as for the first time in many games the normally well organised home backs defensive line failed to materialise. On 58 minutes Hertford centre Aaron Lowe took advantage of a three man overlap on the left with Taylor kicking the goal points 13-20 only for the dose to be repeated as they got around the back of the Wells line this time on 62 minutes as fly half Ben Lloyd got an unconverted try 13-25. Taylor rounding off this three try assault on 67 minutes with a mazy run to the posts and a conversion of his own try to take the score to 13-32.
The crowd might have been forgiven for thinking that the game was effectively over but this Wells side never lies down and with the back row of N Doherty, Allen and Pengelly all over the pitch and the second row adding to the pace through a restored Christian Earle it was time for the St Mark’s boys to show what they could do as Nick Doherty surged through the middle to dive over for the try on 72 minutes. 18-32. At this point Hertford started to look a little disorganised themselves and Wells benefitted as well from indiscipline leading to a yellow card for the visitors. Spurred on by this on 74 minutes centre Shadyn Osgood who had been a thorn in Hertford’s side all game charged down the right touchline and put the perfect reverse pass to Ollie Allman who took the ball in his stride and dived over in the corner 23-32.
These two tries had come so quickly that everyone realised there was still time for a win and this looked even more possible when on 82 minute Nick Doherty rounded off a great team handling effort to dive over under the posts for his second try and for Taylor–Dennehy to add the conversion 30-32.
Deep into injury time Wells probed for the win as Max Douch – on for Blaise Salle – went 30 meters down the right touchline but was eventually stopped. It was a very relieved Hertford who gratefully booted the ball to touch after a great fight back from Wells who are growing into this league. The five points were possible but the late points scoring flurry had earnt Simon Whatling’s side a try bonus for the sixth time this season and a losing bonus point for being within seven points and this allowed them to retain sixth place at this point in the season.
Next Saturday sees the Wells on the road to close neighbours Dorking where they will hope to have Vice Skipper Mike Hathaway in the squad and a repaired Frank Reynolds back in action. KO 2 30pm.
Squad: Kyle McGarvie, Luke Hawkins, Carl Straeche, Tom Brunger, Mac Popham, Christian Earle, Hayden Pengelly, Dave Allen, Nick Doherty, Jake Thompson, Chas Spence, Ryan Taylor-Dennehy, Blaise Salle, Shadyn Osgood, Mike Doherty, Matt Spicer, Max Douch, Ollie Allman.