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Tunbridge Wells Vs. Shelford
Wells excel in their first outing in the London Premier…..
Conditions were perfect underfoot and overhead for the Wells first taste of London Premier Division Rugby in front of a good early season crowd of over 200 at St Marks.
If Shelford – who had inadvertently arrived late having visited TJ’s ground- needed any announcement of intent from newly promoted Tunbridge Wells they did not have to wait long as some very quick and precise handling in the Wells backs released centre Dylan Barkas who powerfully reached the line under the posts for fly half Frank Reynolds to convert and give the home side a 7-0 lead after 6 minutes. This was despite being down to 14 men as hooker Luke Hawkins had been yellow carded for a high tackle after 4 minutes of play.
At this stage an overview of the game revealed that the Shelford set scrummage was strong and their lineout very efficient but that the Wells back row were winning the loose battle and the Wells backs were sharper and more precise in attack.
Despite this Shelford winger Charlie Parkhouse got away from the cover from a counter attack on 16 minutes to pull the score back to 7-5.
Wells continued to dominate in open play with turnovers coming at regular intervals but a succession of penalties against meant promising positions were lost.
However, the period between 28 and 33 minutes displayed a purple patch of Rugby as first Frank Reynolds converted a penalty 10-5 and then after quick hands again Ryan Taylor – Dennehy ( restored to the Wells scene after a sojourn in China) burst through the middle leaving several players in his wake to score with Reynolds again adding the conversion on 30 mins to extend the lead to 17-5. Wells were not finished , however, as Shelford could find no answer defensively to the pace and balance of their backs as on 38 minutes fly Half Frank Reynolds got in on the act to support his centres Barkas and Osgood to score and convert his own try 24-5.
Shelford at this point could have been shell shocked but they were by no means out of the game as on the stroke of halftime their scrum half Ross Kevan threw a dummy to a rare gap in the Wells defence to score untouched with fly half Josh Simmons kicking the points to give a half time score of 24-12.
The Wells faithful might have felt that with a downhill half to come Wells would cement a win early on but Shelford- a team with a reputation for good second halves had other ideas. If pace and accuracy and turn over ball had been the themes of the first half for the home side defence and continued turnovers under pressure became the theme of the second half not helped by a second yellow card issued for a team offense to Charlie Dagwell.
Wells were often pressured in their own half but some immense tackling particularly from Shadyn Osgood and from Ryan Taylor – Dennehy who produced two try saving efforts at the corner flag kept Shelford out until the 66 th minute. At this point a tiring Wells defence was leaving the odd gap at the edges emphasised by the yellow card and Shelford spotted this moving the ball quickly up the right and then inside to centre Grant Anderson who scored under the posts for Simmons to convert and reduce the gap to 24-19.
Despite the Wells pack doing a manful job at the set piece with quick channel ball setting No 8 Nick Doherty free to attack Wells had not scored in the second half and had to wait until the last minute of ordinary time to widen the gap to 27-19 with a long range penalty from Reynolds.
Shelford realising they could at best pick up a try bonus and another bonus for being within 7 points threw caution to the wind as they battled to get out of their half as Wells started to produce some of their first half form. Osgood continued to produce some shuddering tackles which produced loose ball and on 83 minutes back row Hayden Pengelly latched onto one of these in the loose and released left wing Matt Spicer who made no mistake to go under the posts having travelled the wing corridor and for Reynolds again to convert 34-19.
If the crowd were satisfied with this though the players were not and with their tails up more spilt ball saw centre Dylan Barkas latch on to more loose ball and go some 40 metres to the left corner despite being slowed by some despairing tackles to produce a final score with a 20 point gap and a bonus point for tries scored.
The coaching team of Simon Whatling and Dave Allen must have been satisfied with the way in which the team had been prepared, a little concerned with the penalty count and yellow card tally but delighted with the pace and accuracy of the backs, the overall ferocity of tackling and the turn overs created by the back row and team in general.
Now back to the drawing board for a challenging visit this Saturday to Barnes relegated from National 2 South at the end of the season K O 3- 00pm.
Squad: Kyle McGarvie, Luke Hawkins, Brendan Crossilla, Carl Straeche, Mac Topham, Christian Earle, Hayden Pengelly, Charlie Dagwell, Nick Doherty, Chas Spence, Frank Reynolds, Matt Spicer, Dylan Barkas, Shadyn Osgood, Max Douch, Ryan Taylor- Dennehy,, Richard Webster.