Match report by Stuart Montgomery
On a bitterly cold day Tunbridge Wells travelled to Surrey to take on Bracknell with a few changes in the starting lineup but all the same a pretty strong side in what was expected to be a close game against opposition just 1 place adrift of our league position. Bracknell won the toss and elected, as expected, to play up the slope on a narrow pitch.
The early exchanges and for nearly 25 minutes the Wells controlled territory but the Bracknell defence was solid forcing some handling errors and enough pressure to make a couple of crucial poor decisions where it would have been easier to score than not. A Wells penalty just 10 yards out and 10 from the posts was kicked to the corner only for the lineout to malfunction and pressure relieved.
After 25 minutes and some kicking exchanges George Montgomery chipped over the defence and was taken out by 2 defenders with one getting a yellow card and Day stepped forward to convert from 40 metres out, 0-3. Bracknell were spurred into action and good tight forward play with some excellent offloading increased pressure to force a line out 35 metres from Wells line. A good catch and drive into our 22 produced a penalty and they in turn kicked the corner seeking a try. Secure possession saw many phases at close proximity to our line but the defence held up and pressure was relieved with a forward pass. A solid scrum and clearance was brought back for a Bracknell penalty for obstruction and the scores levelled at 3-3 after 30 minutes. Bracknell came straight back and just 5 metres from our line the ball came lose, there was a minor scuffle and a player from each side were shown a yellow card. A kick to the corner, good line out and multiple close quarter phases saw the try by one of the tight forwards and the conversion was good from quite wide out, 10-3. The half was seen out with Wells attacking but making a few too many mistakes to make an impression on the scoreboard.
It wasn’t going to be easy playing up the slope and it was made harder when Bracknell had a scrum just 10 yards from the Wells line in the first 5 minutes and the second row returned from the yellow card to create solid front foot ball which was rolled in 3 or 4 phases to score, again a good conversion to make the score 17-3. Wells made a few changes with Crichton coming on and Day and Montgomery switching positions. Wells were now forced to play a more high tempo game and against the run of play a mid-field kick intended for the space behind the wing was blocked and fell straight into the Bracknell wingers hands for a 60 metre sprint to score out wide and another good conversion saw it 24-3. The bench of Petty and Goodger came on in an attempt to help the cause. Wells were playing far better rugby but their efforts were too often eradicated by poor decisions at close quarters. However a good attack down the right flank and a deft chip by Montgomery saw Angus Horne touch down which was duly converted by Montgomery for 24-10. Was there to be an exciting finish, Wells efforts won good positions and a kick to just 5 metres out from Bracknell’s line saw 10 phases but their defence held out with many of their players having to have treatment after they had been stretched. That was to be the last chance for Wells and to cap the game off, on trying to run from deep inside our half the ball was stripped from a Well’s player and the final play of the match was a try for the winger to secure the bonus point, this time an easy conversion, 31-10.
An interesting match and a few lessons learnt, with Havant at home next week the pressure certainly remains on.