Sat 7 Apr 2018
After a well earned break over Easter Tunbridge Wells travelled to Westcliff for the fixture that would almost certainly decide fifth place in the league. Westcliff were two points above Wells in fifth and had their tails up after a good win over Sutton and Epsom in their last fixture. The sun was out, the ground was dry and conditions seemed perfect for expansive rugby, but the early exchanges were all about the scrum. Wells found it hard going against a very solid Westcliff pack and once again it took them a while to get into the game. With their pack securing plenty of ball, Westcliff's backs probed the Wells defensive line without success, but they always looked dangerous.
Neither side looked to be on top attacking form, but with defences working well and only a few minutes remaining the first half looked likely to be limited to two penalties for Westcliff and a yellow card apiece. But Wells had other ideas. With very little time left on the clock and Wells applying sustained pressure to the Westcliff line, the ball was spun out to the back line and Mike Doherty made no mistake for the try. Frank Reylolds’ conversion meant the visitors edged ahead with the halftime score of 6-7 giving them a mental boost.
Both sets of coaches would have had plenty to say at half time but it was the Wells’ coach Simon Whatling’s team talk that had the almost instant impact. Both teams were restored to full strength and the boys in blue and white restarted with all cylinders firing. They put direct pressure quickly on the Westcliff line and moved the ball efficiently out to captain Ryan Taylor-Dennehy for try number two. Reynolds’ conversion went wide. 6-12.
It wasn’t too long before Westcliff replied with an unconverted try bringing the scores back to 11-12. Nerves were jangling a little with the travelling support but seven minutes later Ryan Taylor-Dennehy bagged his second, and Wells’ third, try. Reynolds’ conversion was unsuccessful so the score still felt too close at 11-17.
With less than 10 minutes to go and the home crowd vocally urging their team on, prop Ben Williams broke through the defensive line. Williams cleverly fed the ball across the pitch to Shadyn Osgood who made a terrific 50 metre run for the bonus point fourth try. Reynolds slotted over the conversion and with five minutes to go the score was 11-24.
Westcliff weren’t giving up easily though and finished the game with a second try making the final score 16-24.
This was not a pretty win, but it was a solid defensive performance against a side that has held fifth in this league for most of the season. A bonus point win is always welcome and with 16 try bonus points and five losing bonus points this season Wells have shown grit and determination in victory and defeat. Wells make it a double over Westcliff and will look forward to meeting them again next season.
Next week Tunbridge Wells welcome Guildford to St. Mark's for the last home fixture of the season. Kick off 3pm.
Ben Williams, Luke Hawkins, Carl Straeche, Christian Earle, Mike Hathaway, Adam Webb, Dave Allen, Nick Doherty, Max Douch, Frank Reynolds, Blaise Salle, Mike Doherty, Shadyn Osgood, Max Hobbs, Ryan Taylor-Dennehy (c), Brendan Crosilla, Mac Popham, Matt Spicer