Rugby: Jones hat-trick secures play-off for Tunbridge Wells as back to back promotions beckon

Gary Jefferies

TUNBRIDGE WELLS hosted Maidstone in their final league game of the season knowing that a win was the bare minimum as they chased a place in the National Three South play-off.

But they were also resigned to the fact that their fate was not in their own hands as Havant had the chance to secure the spot if they won at Sidcup, who had already been crowned league champions.

If there were fears that Sidcup would not put out their strongest side, the news eventually filtered through that the Hampshire side had lost and Wells were through to the knockout round.

The visitors dominated the opening quarter of an hour but the returning second rower Christian Earle turned over the ball in the Maidstone 22 and released impressive hooker Jake Thompson for the first score.

It was the dominant Maidstone scrum that produced their first score on 25 minutes when they took a ball against the head and outside half Rory Beech crossed for a try.

On 32 minutes Wells were back in front when a miscued clearance kick gave skipper Lee Campion and fit again full-back Charlie Harding the opportunity to put man of the match Jake Jones away for a try with his dazzling pace.

Three minutes later the home team extended their lead when another powerful counter-attack provided a try for Nick Doherty.

The No 8’s form has been so strong that he played himself into the senior Kent squad alongside team mates Frank Reynolds and Chaz Spence.

Good hands from Fionn McLoughlin and Nick Blacklock released Jones for his second try to secure the all–important bonus point, and Wells went into half-time leading 26-7.

On 55 minutes Wells put the game to bed when an audacious Reynolds cross-field kick was gathered by Doherty to run in under the posts.

News was filtering through that having led at half-time Havant were now trailing at Sidcup, which further buoyed the mood at St Marks.

On 70 minutes the home support were treated to a superb score as Thompson, Hayden Pengelly and Owain Withers combined to fashion a try for Earle.

Maidstone secured an opportunistic try before the end when wing Matt Moore intercepted a pass 30 metres out.

The home side were not finished yet, though, and Doherty linked with Jones who beat three opponents to secure his hat-trick and Wells’ seventh try.

With the game won, the home faithful waited with bated breath to hear news from Sidcup.

The league leaders won 43-30, which confirmed Wells in second place and qualifying for the promotion play-off.

This will be on Saturday (April 29) at Chingford, who beat Brentwood 35-7 in a ‘winner takes all’ match in London One North.

One more win in another excellent season will see Wells secure remarkable back to back promotions.

A supporters coach will be running from the club up to Essex.

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