Rugby: Tunbridge Wells have wind in their sailsÂ despite going down to 13 men
STORM Brian did his best to upset the first competitive meeting in 15 years between these two old Kent rivals in the London & South East Premier League.
The home side kicked off with a strong south-easterly wind at their backs and soon had the advantage of an extra man as referee Matt Astle yellow-carded Charlie O’Sullivan for holding a player back.
After two attacking line-outs were countered illegally by Combe, their prop Jimi Stanford pulled down a maul and the official awarded a penalty try and a second yellow card on 12 minutes.
Wells dominated the first quarter but then the visitors gained the ascendancy. Dave Allen and man of the match Hayden Pengelly resisted several strong attacks.
But on 32 minutes a clever line-out saw Ryan Hackett cross in the corner, though the conversion into the wind was impossible.
A raking Frank Reynolds kick took Wells deep into the opposition’s half and from the ensuing line-out the robust Pengelly crashed over for a try which saw Wells go in at half-time 12-5 ahead.
The game was very much up for grabs now with the large Combe pack pitted against the fitness and ambitious game-style of Wells.
On 48 minutes Combe scrum half Miki Zanirato took advantage of the wind at his back to slot home a fine 45-metre penalty.
But Wells responded with a cracking Pengelly turnover which brought a penalty that Reynolds sent into the corner after the visitors were marched back 10 metres for dissent. Chaz Spence switched the ball to the blindside and Nick Doherty cleverly twisted and stretched over the line to score on 53 minutes.
A series of forward drives saw Wells’ second row Carl Straeche held up inches short and Mac Popham stretched through the ruck to dot down for the bonus point try. Reynolds’ conversion stretched the lead to 24-8 on 57 minutes.
Kyle McGarvie came on for Luke Hawkins but after a number of penalty offences it was the replacement who saw a team yellow. With veteran prop Tim Collins leaving the field through injury and Hawkins unable to return Wells had to go down to 13 players.
The game moved to uncontested scrums and on 69 minutes it was no surprise when Combe were able to use their numerical superiority to score a second try through lock Tom Clarke, converted by Zanirato.
Wells subsititute Sam Catling made an instant impact, storming clear and linking with Spence who fed Spicer to cross on the left wing for a fine try.
With Reynolds injured, full-back Ryan Taylor-Dennehy took the touchline conversion and he drew the ball into the wind and between the posts.
Combe still had time to mount several attacks but Wells’ game management was proving superior with centres Shaydn Osgood and Mike Doherty showing steely resolution in defence.
This was an impressive Wells display and they now find themselves in sixth place in the league but the challenges keep coming at this level.
On Saturday [October 28] they entertain an in-form Hertford squad who are two places above them in fourth [kick-off 3pm].
TEK Group and Sitsmart have become a main sponsor for Tunbridge Wells rugby, with the latter putting their name to the First XV shirts and the former on second team kit.
The local business manufactures seating for the military as well as trucks, buses and boats, agriculture and the construction industry.
Chief Executive Paul Fleming said: “We’re proud to be supporting the club as they ascend the table in their first campaign at such a high level.”