Sevenoaks 1st XV 8 – 27 Tunbridge Wells 1st XV
Sevenoaks RFC 1st XV welcomed their local rivals Tunbridge Wells to the Paddock for the last game of 2016. In front of a large crowd swelled by the sold out Vice Presidents lunch, Oaks began the match playing towards Lady Boswells school in damp conditions.
The opening quarter saw both teams trying to gain a foothold in the game, with clattering tackles coming in from all over the Paddock. Indeed each team was to lose a starting player with Wells full back Pope being taken off with what looked like a serious leg injury, while Oaks young prop Simmons was to leave the arena with damage to the rib area.
It was Wells who were to get on the board first with a well taken penalty from young fly-half Reynolds. Oaks were to respond with a number of forays into the Wells half, and after one of their continued attacks, including a bustling run from No.8 Simon Humble, quick passing sent away full-back Dan Phoenix, who finished well in the corner to put Oaks into the lead, 5-3.
Wells were to respond soon after though, with fly-half Reynolds successful with another long range effort to ensure Wells remained on top with 10 minutes to go until half time. At this juncture in proceedings, another piece of Oaks history was to be made, as Ollie Robinson, returning to the squad after a sabbatical, came onto the pitch for the injured Humble to mark his 100th 1st XV appearance for the Oaks. Remarkably, this would be Robinson’s first appearance off the bench, with his previous 99 caps all being starts – a testament not only to his talent but also fitness.
As the first stanza came to a close, Oaks seemingly began to have the upper hand, harrying their opposition into mistakes, with loose kicking from Wells resulting in Oaks gaining field position and another penalty. From long range, Phoenix converted successfully and Oaks went into the break 8-6 up and in the ascendancy.
The second half was to be all Tunbridge Wells. A lack of precision and execution, along with a mature display from the men from St Mark’s saw Oaks being wrestled into submission. Ten minutes into the second half, after a number of punching runs into the Oaks 22, Wells kicked the corner after an infringement and powerfully drove over with the excellent Jake Mills touching down. Reynolds converted to push Wells into the lead – one that they would not surrender. This seemed to stir Wells more than it did the home side and fifteen minutes later, the men in white and blue were at it again – this time, referee Mark Hayward awarding a penalty try from another rolling maul, which Reynolds was to convert.
Oaks were then chasing the game and despite a foray into the Wells 22, they were repelled by stout, resolute defence from a side that was showing why they had only lost twice all season. The away team were to have the final say, as after further pressure, that man Mills popped up on the left hand corner to bundle over for his second and Wells third 5 point score. The boot of Reynolds, so excellent all afternoon from the tee, was to bisect the uprights again. Final Score 27-8.
After the game, Sevenoaks RFC Head Coach Adam Bowman commented ‘I think the overriding feeling is one of frustration. We just didn’t get going second half. We’ve proved in previous matches, such as Havant, that when we play to our game plan and structure, we can cause the top sides in this league problems. Whilst the first half went well, we looked out of sorts in the second half. That said, I thought Tunbridge Wells were excellent in that second half and showed why they are third in the league. Jake Mills and Nick Doherty were outstanding for them, carrying well and breaking tackles throughout the game’
‘We have kept perspective though. Of course, losing to our local rivals is not what we wanted, but we sit eighth in a league that we are new in and have acquitted ourselves well. We had a number of guys in their teens out there today – I think the oldest member of the backline is 25, so there will be times when we aren’t maybe as experienced as some of the other sides in this league. I’m really pleased with our efforts so far and also want to thank the support again – they’ve been magnificent this season and after a couple of weeks rest, which we all need, we look forward to getting back out there and having a good second half of the season.’
Sevenoaks RFC 1st XV Squad
1. D. Power
2. S. Sedgewick
3. T. Simmons
4. S. Coleman (c)
5. T. Naismith
6. G. Wheadon
7. M. Skinner
8. S. Humble
9. S. Goodhuw
10. I. Winter
11. J. Short
12. J. Fay
13. S. Osgood
15. D. Phoenix
16. A Rolfe
17. O. Robinson
18. O. Shirtcliff