Rugby: Academy’s Rigby runs show for fluent Wells

Pam Mills

TUNBRIDGE WELLS’ second season in the London & South East Premier League began with a close-fought encounter at St Marks.

A fifth-place finish exceeded expectations last year in Wells’ first season at level five but with Hertford having finished one place higher, the pipe opener was likely to be in the balance.

WIth Ryan Taylor-Dennehy as captain, the squad has remained largely the same but is bolstered by big second row Chris Pentney, inside centre Tom Bailey and back reserve Henry Toomer, who all played last weekend.

After just four minutes, Frank Reynolds sent a penalty kick to the corner and Josh Pankhurst peeled down the blindside from the lineout to touch down on the left, Reynolds converting.

Hertford got on the scoresheet at the end of the first quarter, their scrum-half darting down the narrow blindside to offload for the winger to score an unconverted try in the corner.

After Richard Webster was pulled down just short of the line, Hertford conceded a penalty for offside and their flanker was sent to the sin-bin.

On the half-hour Pankhurst ripped the ball from an attacker and threw it deep to Taylor-Dennehy. A series of passes sent Bailey free down the right-hand touchline to dot down under the posts, allowing an easy conversion.

A minute before half-time Hertford looked to play from deep but the ball was knocked on and Reynolds reacted quickest to hack through and score, then convert to make it 21-5 at the interval.

Hertford struck first after the break. From a scrum in the Wells 22 they moved the ball wide for a well converted try in the corner.

Next it was Webster’s turn to hack through from a ruck in the Hertford 22 and secure the try bonus point, which was converted.

In the final quarter Hertford enjoyed their best period and scored as they broke through the centre for the prop to dot down against the post.

With 10 minutes to go they received a penalty in front of the posts which was successfully kicked to narrow the score to 28-22.

Mike Hathaway at openside then secured a turnover on the left and offloaded to Nick Doherty who strolled over for the converted try.

There was still time for Hertford to score their pitch bonus point try from the length of the  pitch, though the conversion was missed so they didn’t secure the losing bonus point.

It was an impressive start from Wells, and Academy graduate Charlie Rigby was man of the match, showing impressive control at scrum-half.

Head Coach Simon Whatling said: “it was a contest between two teams who clearly were rusty, but we had fantastic character and work rate. It was great to see a change of mind-set.”

Wimbledon, who were relegated from National Two South last season, visit St Marks on Saturday [September 8, kick-off 3pm].

PICTURE: PILE DRIVER: Mike Hathaway breaks through a tackle PHOTO: Bruce Elliott

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