Guernsey Raiders 27 Tunbridge Wells 11
THIS was always going to be a tough first fixture of the year for Tunbridge Wells with a long journey to take on the leaders of the London and South-East Premier Division, and so it proved.
A number of past Tunbridge Wells inhabitants now living in the Channel Islands were among the crowd as Wells started slowly after the three-week Christmas break.
They were soon pinned in the right-hand corner by a penalty and from the lineout a rolling maul saw hooker Tom Ceillan go over for an unconverted try on eight minutes.
Wells came into the game and Guernsey were penalised for not rolling away, fly-half Frank Reynolds kicking the penalty successfully.
The defensive line speed of the hosts made it difficult to get over the gain line. Visiting captain Chas Spence managed to get away for a 40-metre line break but Nick Doherty just failed to get the ball away to brother Mike down the right.
Guernsey sent another penalty to the corner and scored a carbon copy of their opening try with the rolling maul finished by Cameron Craine and converted on 23 minutes.
The closest either side came to scoring in the second quarter was when Reynolds bounced a penalty kick from 40 metres on the crossbar, and the half came to an end at 12-3 to the Raiders.
All was still to play for in the second half and a diagonal kick to Blaise Salle almost saw the winger in. Wells picked and drove, only to lose control as they looked to go over.
But their pressure was maintained and after several phases of play full-back Ryan Taylor-Dennehy picked an immaculate line to score from 20 metres, Reynolds missing the extras.
Wells dropped the ball from the kick-off and Guernsey showed speed and precision as openside flanker Dale Martin finished off good approach work.
The visitors then lost hooker Luke Hawkins and second row Owain Withers to injury as their play started to look a little tired.
The islanders upped their work rate, seeking the try bonus, but Reynolds pegged back the score on 55 minutes as he nailed a penalty for obstruction to make it 19-11.
Another rolling maul saw Guernsey secure the bonus point but not the conversion on 58 minutes. Wells are a side with spirit and in the last quarter they only conceded a penalty.
Next Wells, who are seventh in the table, entertain another of the division’s high-fliers, second-placed Tring, on January 13 (kick-off 2pm) in what is set to be a tricky start to the second half of the campaign.