Tunbridge Wells RFC 31-15 Westcombe Park RFC
TWs manage the elements to halt Combe's recent resurgence
Westcombe Park travelled to Tunbridge Wells on the back of an encouraging turn around in results and were looking to continue the run against a newly promoted Wells side.
An impressive first half defensive performance despite facing the elements and being down to thirteen men gave a full measure of encouragement to the visiting fans. That this wasn't translated into a victory in the second half and was down to a combination of a savvy game plan from the home side and a certain lack of slickness in Combe’s attacking efforts.
Given the weather conditions it was no surprise that the opening exchanges took place in and around Combe's 22. TWs Frankie Reynolds launched his back line with an aplomb he displayed throughout the game. Combe thwarted these thrusts pretty efficiently with back rowers Covington and Hackett to the fore. Combe's scrum was also proving its effectiveness dominating their opposition who had to manufacture any kind of ball from the base under severe pressure.
However Combe could only contain Wells through less than legal means conceding three penalties in the 22 with the last for illegal holding back incurring a yellow card on the 10 minute mark. From the subsequent line out TWs drove a couple of times and as the line approached the maul went to ground. Combe were to suffer doubly with a penalty try and yellow card the outcome.
Visiting fans had been left a trifle bemused when a dominant Combe scrum was pinged for standing up despite Wells being on a speedy retreat. However tables were turned at the next scrum inside TWs half with the home side found at fault. From an efficient catch and drive at the line out blind side Hackett opened Combe's account. In the gusting wind the conversion went wide. A two point deficit would have been a well-earned reward for a well-managed defensive effort from the whole WPRFC fifteen. But it was not to be. Yet another TWs penalty was launched into the corner and, with two quick bursts from their forwards, Wells scored a 2nd try to finish the half leading by 12 points to 5.
The second period started with Combe's indiscipline continuing to cost them ball and territory. But gradually the game was being played more in the home team's half. Spilt ball in the 22 nearly resulted in a breakaway score for TWs with a powerful thrust through the middle of the park which was only halted with a last ditch covering tackle.
There was another TWs penalty which drifted across the posts but quickly Combe were back in the opposition's half and Miky Zanirato successfully slotted a toughish penalty following a TWs crossing indiscretion to bring Combe to within four points.
Any further Combe progress was halted by two unanswered Wells' scores which just about put the match beyond the visitors' reach. The first from what was becoming the afternoon's favoured scoring method of a catch and forward drives from a line out and the second from a well-executed move through the guts of the Combe defence. TWs now held a healthy 24-8 lead.
It was TWs turn to attract adverse attention from the referee. However the visitors weren't able to take advantage until TWs went down to 14 men after a number of infringements in the danger zone. It seemed only par for the course for the score to come following a line out with 2nd row Clarke claiming the try and Zanirato getting the conversion to give Combe the merest glimmer of hope at 24-15.
But it was not to be as TWs superior game management continued; defending stoutly and moving the ball out of defence effectively. Moving through the gears TWs managed to outflank Combe's defence to cross in the corner and a successful Reynolds conversion put TWs beyond the visitor's reach at 31-15.
Combe' performance was in some ways epitomised in the closing exchanges as they tried to run the ball from their own half. But tired limbs and minds meant that little meaningful progress was made and the final whistle signalled an efficient Tunbridge Wells win.
Next week Westcombe Park face old rivals Shelford at Goddington Dene at 1500.
Westcombe Park RFC XV:
Bateup, Livett , Saffery , Bonner D, Dowding, Cameron, Zanirato, Stanford, Bonner J, Forsyth, Calohard, Clarke, Hackett, Covington, O'Sullivan
Replacements: Simmons, Jackson, Fox
Match reporter: Jon Vallely.