TONBRIDGE JUDDIANS crashed down to earth at the start of the new year with a poor second-half showing against the bottom club in National Two South which saw their eight-game unbeaten run come to an end.
The visitors had started well and were ahead by a pair of tries after just seven minutes, courtesy of two close-range snipes from Charlie Edwards, both converted by Will Robinson.
Both scores came from the TJ backs slicing through the defence of a side that had only won three times in the first half of the season.
The Irish rallied, however, and although ex-TJ Liam Prescott missed a penalty they scored their first try after a catch and drive at the lineout.
Prescott failed to convert it but then he added a penalty and Irish confidence was rising.
One of the home props was sent to the sin bin and TJs took advantage. From a clearing kick Robinson put the lively Tom Chapman through a hole and he went close.
Robinson was on hand for the recycled ball and he crashed over to make it 19-8 at the break.
The second half started poorly for the visitors.They failed to deal with the kick-off and from the ensuing scrum Irish sliced through the middle, recycled close to the line and powered over to put themselves right back in contention.
TJs soon hit back, finding space wide on the left. Chapman cut through on Robinson’s shoulder to score from 30 metres, the latter converting.
But then the TJ wheels came off as Ryan Jackson saw yellow, and he was followed to the sin bin soon afterwards by Charlie Edwards.
In a blink of an eye Irish scored two tries and were in front for the first time, leading 27-26.
The TJ defence was now heavily outnumbered and Irish extended their lead.
Jackson returned to the fray but from the restart Ryan Ward got too close to the Irish catcher in the air and received a red card.
The dismissal put TJs even more on the back foot and Irish scored again.
Irish were now very much in the box seat but TJs were back to 14 and they sent Chapman in down the left after slick hands in the backs.
With a 10-point deficit and 12 minutes left, the visitors reached the Irish line but they knocked on and were then penalised for dissent.
A scrum penalty on 40 metres gave Prescott a chance to put the final nail in TJs’ coffin, which he did with some aplomb, and TJs had no way back.
It was a hugely disappointing result for TJs in which their discipline let them down.
Tonbridge’s next game is at home to Henley Hawks on Saturday [January 12, kick-off 2.30pm].