Rugby: Impatient Wells miss out on bonus but returning Cook keeps them on right track


TUNBRIDGE WELLS were triumphant on their first ever visit to Dukes Field in west London and now sit eight points behind the second place play-off position in London One South.

They were boosted by the return of player-coach Matt Cook, who had been missing since early November with a broken arm.

Conditions were wet and slimy given despite two weeks of dry weather and Chiswick put up valiant resistance in defence. That forced the visitors to be patient, something that they did not show all game long.

Captain Chas Spence released quick ball and right wing Jake Jones registered the first try in the corner, though Frank Reynolds could not quite convert it.

However, a number of handling errors from Wells let Chiswick back into the game.  Dylan Barkas, making his first appearance at centre since September, tackled well throughout and none was more important than the one he produced in the 18th minute to haul down a home attacker.

Wells continued to pile on the pressure through some fast forward interchanges. After one of these, centre Hayden Pope made a telling break to get in behind the defence and Mike Hathaway was on hand to score a second try under the posts after 23 minutes. Reynolds converted this time to make it 12-0.

Wells were pulled up four times for forward passes and were finding it difficult to find the momentum to turn possession into points.

Half-time was fast approaching when another midfield passing error was seized upon by a Chiswick centre, who turned a Wells attack into Chiswick’s first, unconverted try.

At the interval the score was 12-5 to Wells, and within two minutes of the restart an attempted box kick from Spence was charged down. From the ensuing breakdown Chiswick were awarded and scored a penalty.

Then Wells threw the kitchen sink at the home side but they have had a lot of practice at defending this season and despite a home yellow card for their left wing, Wells just could not find the right lines or the patience to break through.

Eventually Chiswick were able to clear their lines but a second line-out steal of the afternoon saw Owain Withers regain possession. Prop Nick Blacklock ran on and released Pope in the centre, who sealed a good afternoon’s work with the third try, converted by Reynolds from out on the left touchline.

This meant Wells had 25 minutes to score the all-important bonus point try. But they lost Tom George to a yellow card in the 68th minute and simply could not find a way through, their narrowness and a lack of patience combining to thwart them.

With a number of the injured returning to the game with no ill affects, Wells can remain confident as they sit eight points behind the second place play-off position in London One South. They meet Gravesend next Saturday in a game that was postponed during the cold spell.

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