When the RFU releases the league fixtures in late May, it is fair to say that all those associated with Tunbridge Wells RFC and Sevenoaks RFC look immediately down the list to see when they will be travelling either side of the A21 to either St Marks or the Paddock. It is the turn of the Sevenoaks Rugby players, management and supporters to make the short twenty minute trip this time, as ‘The Wells’ host their fierce rivals for the first time in this league calendar.
Before looking ahead to this weekend, Head Coach Adam Bowman was clearly pleased with the work both Senior Squad teams did last Saturday with the 1st XV running our 47-0 victors against Gosport and Fareham and the 2nd XV beating local rivals 50-7 in a friendly. ‘Clearly the opening day win against Gosport and Fareham was a really good confidence booster for the squad’ said Bowman. ‘The squad worked incredibly hard during pre-season and you just want their efforts to be rewarded, so to get the first win under the belts was really pleasing. The 2nd XV also put in a really strong showing against Tunbridge Wells 2nd XV, and whilst I understand Wells were missing a few players, to put fifty points on any team is an achievement. There was a real buzz around the Club on Saturday night, we had a great social and those are the times you really have to enjoy. We are not getting carried away though – it’s one game at a time and so our focus now moves to Tunbridge Wells and Folkestone.’
Despite both sides gaining promotion from London 2 South East, last season was undoubtedly the ‘Year of the Wells’, as Matt Cook and Alex Nicholson’s side swept all before them in an unbeaten season that saw the men in blue and white win the league comfortably and also enjoy a day out at Twickenham when they won the Intermediate Cup.
With such a gulf on the scoreboard when the two sides met towards the end of last season and with Wells having recruited well over the summer, those on the outside would be forgiven that the A21 bragging rights will remain on St Marks Road. But Bowman would like to urge those onlookers to take a second look and says ‘First and foremost, Tunbridge Wells were excellent last year. The job that Alex (Nicholson), Matt (Cook), Charlie (Harding) and Mike (Whatman) did was extraordinary. I know from first-hand experience this summer that putting that type of culture in place is hard work. But, despite the score lines towards the end of last season, I don’t believe we were too far off. We needed to tweak certain areas, which we have done and I have full belief that the team is fully up to putting in a good showing this weekend. We’d like to think we are stronger as a group this year and whilst they are undoubtedly a very good side across the board, we also have quality throughout the squad, so it should be a good game for those going to watch. I’m sure Graham Withers and his team will put on a good number of activities before the game for the supporters so if the sun is shining, I hope it will be a good spectacle for Kent Rugby.’
Bowman continued ‘Derbies are always special and as a squad we can’t wait – the crowd is always bigger, the atmosphere seems a bit more tense and it generally means a better standard of rugby is produced. Despite the rivalry, we know a lot of the boys at Tunbridge Wells and look forward to sharing a beer with them after. Alex and I have bounced ideas off each other in the summer so no doubt after the game I’ll be picking his brains on Maidstone and him Gosport and Fareham!’
Bowman touches on the impact a local derby has on a player and Captain Stu Coleman agrees with his Head Coach on how it can lift both sets of players ‘I’ve only played in a couple of derby matches but they’ve always been fairly brutal. The adrenaline seems to pump through the veins a bit more so the collisions are harder and people seem to find that extra gear from somewhere in attack. It will be really exciting to lead the boys out and I hope we can get as many Oaks supporters down to cheer us on as it makes a real difference’.
It is set to be a mouth-watering clash, so make sure you come and cheer on the Oaks this Saturday. Kick-off at St Mark’s is at 1500hrs.
If you can't make the trip to St Mark's, then the 2nd XV are at home this weekend against Folkestone, kicking off at 1500hrs.