TUNBRIDGE WELLS mounted a spirited comeback in the last 20 minutes against Westcliff but another defeat leaves them anxious to avoid slipping into the relegation places in the London and South-East Premier Division.
The Southend side are sitting in third place and had only lost once at home this season, to league leaders Wimbledon, so it was always going to be a tough task for the visitors.
Facing a stiff wind in the first half, Wells made a slow start, giving away three penalties in front of the posts in the first 14 minutes, fly-half Ben McKeith slotting two of them.
The hosts applied pressure high up the pitch, and Wells had difficulty securing possession and were under intense pressure in the set scrum.
Westcliff went further ahead when prop Will Weston popped the ball to Ross Merrick, who avoided several tackles to score in the left corner, McKeith impressively adding the points from the touchline.
Wells’ pack started to get to grips with Westcliff in the tight but some spirited runs failed to find any holes in the home defence.
Smart midfield play by Westcliff on 28 minutes saw back row George Maloney go over from a physical drive.
Then a dropped ball in a Wells attack on the home 22 saw a hack upfield with Chris Marsh winning the race and McKeith kicking the points for a 25-0 lead at half-time.
With the wind at their backs after the interval, Wells were able to occupy a much higher field position.
On 57 minutes the Wells pack drove over the line but were held up. However, from the ensuing scrum and breakdowns the ball was worked to Richard Webster, who scored the try to put Wells on the scoreboard.
With 10 minutes left the hosts secured their bonus point when centre Rob Smith dummied his way over, McKeith rattling the posts and missing his kick.
Wells then launched a wave of attacks and a flurry of penalties in the red zone finally saw a yellow card given to Merrick.
The visitors persisted and eventually got in for a try in the left corner with Nick Doherty scoring their second try, though Frank Reynolds could not convert.
Wells now meet Guildford, one place below them in 10th with the same number of points, in a crucial game at home on Saturday [January 19, kick-off 2pm].