'Combe edge it despite a huge scare in the closing stages
Westcombe Park 11-10 Tunbridge Wells
Hearts were still pounding long after the final whistle following the narrowest of victories over a resilient Wells team. The cause of the angst was a tight decision going Combe's way with only a handful of minutes on the clock. The ball had ricocheted in midfield and Wells managed to put boot to ball sending it through the gloom and mire into the 22. Fortune was with Combe as the second hack on was a wee bit too heavy and, as the ball approached the dead ball line, the despairing Wells lunge only managed to knock the ball dead. On another day the score might have been given and the pain of the Wells' support is easily understood.
Combe started strongly going through the phases, recycling the greasy ball well. Nick Porter was to the fore in these early exchanges, leading the charge. The pressure told quickly and blind side Claude Springer crashed over. The conversion was missed.
Wells came back with stand off Reynolds combatting Combe's power in the tight 5 with his trademark kicking game. 10 minutes in Combe were caught offside at the breakdown and in the next phase earned a yellow card for a tip tackle. From the ensuing kick Reynolds smoothly slotted the 3 points.
Combe's front row continued to break the gain line with a sensible pick and drive strategy given the conditions. Jamie Forsyth was putting in a mighty stint and when the ball did go
wide Ben Hennah made full use of his extra poundage on the crash ball.
But next to score were the visitors. On the 20 minute mark Wells had a scrum in the 22 in front of the posts The ball went left and Combe fell off the tackle and Wells were in. Reynolds had brought his kicking boots with him and hit the ball smoothly for the conversion to give Wells the lead at 10 points to 5.
The match was pretty attritional for the next quarter of an hour the highlights being a strong 15 metre drive by the visitors, Combe winning a crucial turnover at the breakdown and Tom Clarke disrupting Wells line out. With halftime approaching Combe broke their recent habit of conceding points just before the break by garnering 3 of their own from a neat penalty from full back Will Robinson when Wells transgressed with a no arms tackle.
Halftime: WPRFC 8-10 TWRFC
Back to the trenches for the 2nd half and it was becoming difficult to tell the teams apart in the mud bath. Combe continued their close in phase game and accumulated an impressive total of 18-19 phases in the danger zone before the ball was spilled.
Then it was Wells' turn to have a go but the pressure was relieved with a fine clearance from Combe man of the match Ed Durkin. Both sides were fairly evenly matched but with Combe probably just exerting that bit more pressure as their heavyweights tried and mostly succeeded to dominate the tackle area. This marginal advantage produced points when Wells were caught offside in front of the posts and Robinson kicked successfully to give the homeside the narrowest of leads.
And then came that heart in the mouth moment which ended the excitement and the match played out for another valuable Combe win making it 5 wins out of the last 6. Hope springs eternal and a hoarse Director of Rugby Rob Lawrence asked the Combe faithful to redouble their support for the team as it does add that vital edge. And also to save his strained vocal cords. Wells played hard and despite their obvious disappointment at not securing their win look well set to stay in the league
Next game is 17 February away at Shelford and Combe won't be back home until 3 March when Hertford are the visitors.
Westcombe Park: Robinson, Hamilton, Deschamps, Hennah, Sema, Cameron, Durkin, Porter,Bonner, Forsyth, Clarke, Christopher, Springer, Lindfield, O'Sullivan
Replacements: Saunders, Pohlen, Pursell
Report: John Vallely