Rugby: Westcliff defence stands firm to hold off Tunbridge Wells

Pam Mills
PICK AND DRIVE: Ben Williams scored Tunbridge Wells' only try PHOTO: Bruce Elliott

TUNBRIDGE WELLS came unstuck against confident opposition for the second time this season as they were defeated by Westcliff, who have won all their games so far.

The Essex side are among the early leaders in London and South-East Premier Division, in second place behind Wimbledon – who also beat Wells and are unbeaten.

Wells continued to change their back line with Charlie Rigby back at scrum-half and Frank Taylor returning from injury at No 10.

The home side found themselves regularly incurring the displeasure of the referee early on, and Westcliff slotted two early penalties as Wells went off their feet in greasy conditions.

With both defences looking miserly, after 25 minutes there had still been no tries scored as the sides traded penalties.

The next 10 minutes was to decide the result of the game. Westcliff No 8 Jim Smith was yellow-carded and Wells launched themselves at the visitors’ line to take advantage of the extra man yet couldn’t quite get over.

Breaking out, however, Westcliff right wing Ross Merrick got over in the corner and Ben McKeith converted from the touchline to make the score 6-16 to the away team.

The half-time team-talk called for more direct tactics and and Wells had pinned Westcliff on their own line within five minutes of the restart.

They showed patience with the pick-and-drive, allowing prop Ben Williams to burrow over for a try that was converted by Reynolds to close the gap to three points.

Wells now had the impetus but several promising moves were spoilt by inaccurate kicking from hand and lack of patience when driving the narrow channels.

They went further behind to yet another simple penalty for McKeith on 47 minutes but continued to  dominate possession and position.

The hosts were still within one score of winning, and two periods of recycling close to the line should have led to home tries but it was an outstanding defensive performance by Westcliff.

Wells could not add to their tally despite a 14-phase close-range attack in the dying moments – though they did collect a losing bonus point.

But they can take encouragement from a stable scrum and secure ball from Mike Hathaway and Christian Earle in the lineout from the accurate throwing of Josh Pankhurst.

Tunbridge Wells now travel to Guildford on Saturday [September 29, kick-off 3pm].

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