Rugby: Defensive expertise allows Tunbridge Wells to keep on winning

Pam Mills

TUNBRIDGE WELLS recorded their third win in a row – and third try bonus point – but it was a close encounter with fellow Kent side Sidcup until the last quarter.

Wells remain in sixth place in London and South-East Premier Division, two points behind another close rival, Westcliff.

They can move above them if they beat them in the next game. This would leave only the runaway top four teams ahead of them, a fine achievement after being promoted last season.

Sidcup may have been flirting with relegation but the home side hardly put a hand on the ball in the first quarter as the visitors battered their defensive line – a pattern that was to shape the rest of the afternoon.

Wells did get onto the scoreboard first with a Frank Reynolds penalty in the 14th minute but after two successive penalties of their own up the touchline Sidcup saw their chance to use their physicality.

They inexorably rolled a maul over in the left-hand corner for No 8 Freddy Ruff to score, and full-back Josh Twyford kicked the conversion.

Wells decided to live by the sword and on 28 minutes player-coach Dave Allen launched a counter-attack from deep in the home half.

The move covered 70 metres as the ball went through several pairs of hands to find centre Mike Doherty, who knifed through for an unconverted try.

A diagonal kick from Reynolds to Nick Doherty, popping up on the wing, almost gave Wells another score on the counter but they went in at half-time 8-7 ahead.

After the interval the defensive skills of Allen, Christian Earle, Mike Hathaway and Shadyn Osgood were particularly to the fore again.

But within five minutes of the restart another penalty to the corner saw Sidcup roll the maul again from the lineout.

The maul collapsed on the line and the referee gave a penalty try and sent Mike Hathaway to the touchline with a yellow card.

Wells’ defence held firm despite being a man down and when Hathaway returned on 57 minutes they struck with another counter the length of the field, wing Max Hobbs claiming the try and Reynolds the converting.

The hosts then turned a penalty into a rolling maul and gave Sidcup a taste of their own medicine as Ben Williams peeled off to score and Reynolds converted to make it 22-14.

Within two minutes a loose pass on Sidcup’s right wing was intercepted by Blaise Salle, who showed great acceleration from his own 22.

He reached the Sidcup 22 and found centre -Shadyn Osgood on his shoulder to take the inside pass and score close to the posts, with Reynolds again converting.

So they had managed to pull away with five minutes remaining, though Sidcup did find time to set another rolling maul from the lineout and Ruff grabbed his second try, Twyford kicking the extras.

Wells now have a weekend off before they travel to Westcliff on April 7 (kick-off 3pm).

Skills coach moves up

Mike Whatman has been appointed Director of Rugby following Will Thorpe’s decision to step down due to work commitments.

Mike has been involved with the first XV for several seasons as skills coach and been integral to the team’s recent success.

He will act as a link between the players, management team and the executive.

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