Tunbridge Wells rugby team are basking in sporting glory after winning the RFU Intermediate Cup final at Twickenham on Saturday to add to their earlier league championship.
The 22-strong squad beat St Benedicts from Whitehaven in Cumbria after a thrilling match which included eight tries and an amazing drop kick goal by Charlie Harding which helped the Wells secure a triumphant 56 points to 14. Thousands of fans from the town travelled by coach, train and car to the spiritual home of rugby on one of the hottest days of the year to support a team that has won all its 29 matches this year and also been crowned league champions of London Division Two South-East.
“We thought a few thousand might turn up but in the end there was a crowd of 9,000 in the stadium,” said Tunbridge Wells RFC’s Director of Rugby Alex Nicolson.
“The RFU said the majority of them were from Tunbridge Wells and that it was the biggest crowd they’d ever seen at Twickenham for this type of cup final match. They also commented on the fantastic support the crowd gave the players.
“It was overwhelming and humbling just to have so many people behind us. The crowd was in effect the 16th man.” Former Skinners’ pupil Nicholas Doherty scored the team’s first try within ten minutes with others coming shortly afterwards from Alex Maynard and Lee Campion.
Points from kicker Hayden Pope helped Tunbridge Wells secure a 27-0 lead in the first half before St Benedicts reduced the score to 27-7. Throughout the first 40 minutes, the Tunbridge Wells team displayed an impressive range of tackling, possession and conversions and the fans loved every second waving the team’s blue and white chequered flags and shouting ‘Come on you Wells’ – the club’s official chant – with the help of representatives from Tunbridge Wells Football Club who had come along to join in the fun.
Early on in the second half St Benedicts’ Mike Hawley’s converted try put another seven points on the board but Tunbridge Wells stepped things up a gear with powerful tries scored by Fred Tila and Charles Spence and a couple of conversions by Hayden Pope.
But it was former St Gregory’s pupil Charlie Harding’s skilful drop kick with just five minutes to go that helped the Wells clinch the championship.
“That kick summed it all up for me. It was purely sublime” said Alex Nicholson. All 22 players in the squad, which was skippered by Sean O’Connor, had their moment of glory playing on Twickenham’s hallowed ground.
“Everyone in the team came on at some point and our game plan worked. I can’t begin to describe how much went into the build up to the final. The club put everything into it and it just shows what you need to do get a successful result,” said Alex Nicholson.
“If you’d said to me this time last year that we would win the league and cup double and play at Twickenham to an audience of thousands I wouldn’t have believed you.”
To celebrate, the team journeyed back to their ground at St Marks and the party lasted well into the early hours.