TUNBRIDGE WELLS RFC 1ST XV. 26. SHELFORD RFC 1ST XV. 10.
26 - 10
1st XV Vs. Shelford
Wells kicked off the first game of 2019 in calm conditions and with a near perfect pitch to play on against bottom side Shelford in this London and SE Premier Division game.
Dave Allen and George Montgomery both remained on the injured list with Luke Hawkins and Jake Caddy replacing them.
The home side started the slower of the two and for the first few minutes found it difficult to generate pace or space as a result. Shelford for their part were quicker but a little lateral in their movement. Nevertheless it was the visitors who looked more like scoring missing a relatively simple penalty on 2 minutes and then scoring a try down the left as Wells lost possession and then completely misjudged the kick ahead to see Lewis Cracknell go in for an unconverted try after 5 minute 0-5.
Wells then had more of the ball but had a tendency to lose possession in the collision.
However, they did occupy a higher field position and on 16 minutes Nick Doherty made a telling burst on the right to feed Mike Hathaway who took the perfect line to score and for Frank Reynolds to convert. 7-5.
Wells continued to create chances going close before a knock- on in the 21st minute and dominating the line out and scrum. Scores would not come, however,due to the spirit of the Shelford team and an inability to keep possession in the loose.
It was not until the last 10 minutes of the half that the town side found some continuity and cohesion as they first took advantage of a poor kick ahead to counter attack with the ball being moved smartly to centre Mike Doherty who carved the perfect outside break and then cut into the posts for the try with Reynolds adding the extras on 39 minutes 14-5.
Finally in the 41st minute Wells countered from even deeper as they turned the ball over in their own 22 with Nick Doherty carrying for 40 meters before passing onto Christian Earle in space who got to five metres before handing the try to the supporting wing Richard Webster in the right corner for an unconverted try and a halftime lead of 19-5.
With Wells playing towards Frant in the second half many on the touchline expected play to be in that direction but the cohesion achieved prior to the break seemed to have been lost in the changing room and despite dominating the set pieces Wells continued to lose the ball in the loose. An attempted clearance kick down the right was executed poorly in the 52nd minute which allowed Shelford to get up steam and feed the ball to their outstanding young second row Fred Betteridge who got over for an unconverted try 19-10.
This try seemed to sting Wells who enjoyed a period of play where with the back row and the pack in general driving forward they pinned Shelford on their line. First Mike Doherty was hauled down 6 inches short of the line and Wells were then awarded a penalty within seconds which they opted to scrummage. The Wells 8 drove over the line for No 8 Nick Doherty to get the touch down and the bonus point try on 64 minutes. 26-10.
At this point most felt the job had been done despite the spirit of the Shelford side.
However, that old friend indiscipline cropped up again with second row Josh Hawkins getting a yellow on 72 minutes. This did not prevent substitute Scrum half Anthony Storkey making a supercharged run down the right touchline to be hauled down metres short of the try line by an outstanding tackle from Shelford full back Shingai Chiwanga.
There was still time for Wells to go down to 13 men for the last 4 minutes of the game as Matt Spicer took an offside yellow for the team as they successfully kept the visitors at bay until the final whistle.
Wells now have to make sure that the all of the ring rustiness from the Christmas break has gone in order to bring back points from third placed Westcliff next week KO 2 00 pm. To do this they will have to play in more than patches as they seek to continue the move towards the top half of the table.