Rugby: This was Wells’ greatest year… Now for the hard part

    MAKING HAY Hayden Pengelly (left) tries to break through Tottonians in September Photo: Bruce Elliott

    LAST year was the most successful in the history of Tunbridge Wells RFC. National Intermediate Cup winners at Twickenham, undefeated London Two South-East league champions and voted Men’s Team of the Year at the National Rugby Awards.

    Throw in a club record 40 consecutive wins and 2016 was certainly a year that will never be forgotten by all at St Marks.

    As 2017 begins, the 1st XV sit third in London One South after 14 games. Wells are 12 points behind the pace-setting Sidcup and four adrift of second-placed Havant.

    Only the winners are promoted automatically while the runners-up go into a play-off with the London One North runners-up. With 12 games left, Wells’ fate is very much in their own hands.

    “This has been a huge step up this season” said the club’s Chairman, Graham Withers. “I think we knew it would be but the intensity of the opposition defences and the attritional nature of the rugby has been something of a wake-up call.”

    “We are not ‘clicking’ like we did last season but that’s as much down to the quality of the teams we are up against as anything else.

    “We hit a flat spot in late autumn as injuries mounted and we lost four games in five – ironically starting with a fiercely competitive one-point loss in the Kent Cup against TJs.”

    This was followed by three league defeats in four games but they were all narrow, by one score – including a highly significant 22-17 loss at home to Sidcup when playing nearly an hour with 14 players after a controversial red card.

    Key personnel remain unavailable but a fine run of form has witnessed four successive victories -culminating in a season’s best performance at -Sevenoaks before Christmas. Mr Withers believes consistency has been a major positive.

    “We are now entering a pivotal phase for our promotion campaign,” he said. “This Saturday we host Tottonians, who gave us all sorts of problems back in September when we only really secured a 27-15 win after they suffered a crucial yellow card.

    “We had a lot of supporters at Twickenham and it would be great to see a few of these on the touchline this week at St Marks.”