Sutton & Epsom 26 Tunbridge Wells 27
TUNBRIDGE WELLS held on courageously to secure a thrilling win at Sutton & Epsom [S&E] in the London & South-East Premier.
Chaz Spence worked a narrow blindside channel and after racing up the touchline he found Hayden Pengelly, who fed Max Douch and he sprinted from halfway to open the scoring.
The hosts slotted a penalty and after 20 minutes a strong maul rolled S&E upfield and their fly-half went over for the score. Their rolling maul was used to good effect again 10 minutes later, this time resulting directly in a try to make it 13-5.
By then Wells had lost lock Alex Burman to a head injury with Mac Popham replacing him. But they dominated the end of the first half. Although a penalty went begging, a good backs move led to Blaise Salle being held up in the left-hand corner and the ensuing scrum resulted in a try.
No 8 Nick Doherty broke off the scrum to place the pass to his brother Mike, who despite fumbling it managed to force his way over.
Wells built further phases which resulted in a penalty slotted home by Frank Reynolds. The offence saw an opposing lock sent to the sinbin and the teams went in all square 13-13 at half-time.
Despite being a man down, S&E started the second half stronger and soon led 20-13. Wells conceded a free-kick for an early push at the scrum five metres in front of their own posts and after a few phases the home side were over.
They extended their lead when Pengelly was penalised for not rolling away at the ruck and given a yellow card for his troubles.
With half an hour left Wells stepped up their game and it was their turn to use the rolling maul to great effect. One surging maul was only halted when it was illegally pulled down with S&E’s No 8 sent to the bin. Wells put the ball into the corner and set the maul rolling again.
It fell short of the line but Spence was there to burrow over, and Reynolds nailed the conversion to put Tunbridge Wells three points in arrears.
After a period of territorial battling Shaydn Osgood was penalised in front of Wells’ posts and the penalty was slotted to give S&E a 26-20 lead.
With 10 minutes remaining Wells took the lead for the first time. Nick Doherty did well to secure the ball at the back of the scrum, it was worked out to the backs and Ryan Taylor-Dennehy dotted down in the left-hand corner. Crucially, Reynolds hit a fine conversion to put his side a point ahead.
Both sides defended resolutely until the end. On 73 minutes Mike Hathaway was shown a red card, having been adjudged to have hit an opponent.
But the penalty was missed. Wells had to hold out with 14 men and they did so stoutly until, with a minute left, the referee penalised the visitors again, this time for being in front of the kicker.
However, that kick also went astray and Wells held on for a remarkable bonus-point victory.
Their next fixture is a crunch derby game at home to Westcombe Park on October 21 (kick-off 3pm).