HERTFORD RFC 1St XV. 33. TUNBRIDGE WELLS RFC 1 ST XV. 32.
33 - 32
Hertford Vs. Tunbridge Wells
Wells came to this last League game of the RFU London and SE season with an unbeaten run going back to a draw with Bedford Athletic at the beginning of March and which had seen them win their last 4 games to reach 7th place of the 14 sides.
The Town side saw the return of Aston Croall and Josh Pankhurst to the front row, Christian Earl to the second row, Dave Allen moved to No 8 and Jake Caddy starting on the right wing.
Wells were off to the better start pressurising their hosts and going ahead with a Frank Reynolds penalty despite his borrowed boots in the 4th minute and then scoring a Jake Caddy try after good work from Mike Doherty on the right and adding a Reynolds conversion for a 0-10 lead after 9 minutes. With Wells on top in most aspects of the game this lead was further stretched on 15 minutes as skipper Ryan Taylor – Dennehy made the break, Frank Reynolds taking the move on and releasing Mike Doherty with a great pass for him to score the unconverted try 0-15.
Hertford have an enviable home record – only lost 3 times there this season – and they were always going to come back into the game which they did on 18 minutes as Wells missed a kick ahead and Josh Corcoran got an unconverted Touch down 5-15. Hertford then applied home pressure camping in the Wells 22 where the back row led by Dave Allen – playing his last game before retirement- put in a brilliant defensive shift to keep Hertford at bay. With Croall and Cressila putting in some big hits along with the ever excellent Mike Hathaway.
Halftime beckoned as Wells conceded a kick to the corner after indiscipline and Hertford made no mistake as they rolled the maul over the line for Tim Matthews to score the try and Sam Walker converting 12-15.
Wells were not finished as with half time seconds away they were awarded a penalty and kicked to the corner. The forwards launched towards the try line and a deft little one two pop pass from Croall to Cressilla saw the latter celebrate his third try of the season under the posts with Reynolds converting for a halftime lead to the Wells of 12-22.
Wells came out for the second half unchanged despite Josh Hawkins being off for a period in the first half with a shoulder problem. Sadly he only lasted 4 minutes of the second before being replaced by Matt Symonds.
A number of handling errors characterised the first ten minutes of the second half for both sides before home fly half Rory Seymour unlocked the defence with a deft chip over the top to catch his own kick and go in under the posts for a converted try 19-22.
George Montgomery was the second visiting player to succumb to injury with Caddy moving inside and Rich Murray replacing him on the wing. As the game approached the last quarter Hertford started to enjoy the lions share of possession as Wells had to increase their tackle count. Despite the Wells players coping in general a loose kick which missed Touch was fielded by Hertford 12 Richard Streets who then completed a mazy run to score on 55 minutes with Walker converting to give Hertford a bonus point try and the lead 26-22.
If Wells were to win they would have to do it the hard way by winning more possession and by occupying a higher field position by using the stiff NE breeze and for a period of fifteen minute this they managed to do. Wells drove to within a meter of the home line on 65 minutes and showed great patience as they eventually went for the line with scrum half Charlie Rigby ensuring the touch down for a try bonus 10 metres wide of the posts. Reynolds could not convert but Wells were back in the lead at 26-27 and just to prove they were not done launched a brilliant attack from the restart with Mike Hathaway scything through the Hertford defence to launch the speedy Hobbs at the line to score halfway out to extend the lead to 26-32 on 67 minutes.
Wells now had to defend this lead against a side who were keen to preserve their home record and with numerous injuries had almost 20 minute to run as Stu Nicholls replaced Josh Pankhurst at hooker.
Wells in the main managed this well with Hathaway, Allen and Earl continuing to physically police Hertford in the tackle but home pressure saw most of the last 10 minutes play taking place in the away 22. A succession of penalty scrums saw Hertford suck in Wells defenders and in the 88 th minute the ball was moved wide to centre Streets who just got the ball down despite close attention from Taylor- Dennehy. Time was up and Walker had a kick 15 metres in from the touchline against the breeze and somehow managed it to seize a one point victory from the jaws of defeat.
This was a monumental game from Wells as both sides scored five tries. It was also farewell to Dave Allen who has graced Blackheath 1st XV, England Counties and the Barbarians before 2 years as a player coach with the Wells. It has been a privilege to have him as part of the town set up and everyone wishes him the best and maybe deep down hope he will change his mind as next season looms large on the calendar.
In the meantime Wells will look at first half of the season lack of consistency as a strong second half secures 7 th place with 2 points earns against Hertford.