In driving wind and rain on a very heavy pitch, for most of the second half the two sets of heavily muddied players were mostly indistinguishable to the watching crowd and increasingly to the players, culminating in one Tunbridge Wells player executing an excellent tackle ….on his own teammate!
In a game on occasions made chaotic by the conditions, enormous credit must go to Sevenoaks, Tunbridge Wells and the officials who dealt admirably with the elements. Whilst not being able to fault the visitor’s commitment, the home team largely dominated their opponents to secure the bonus point win in this London & SE Premier league fixture. For the second time this season Oaks had scored some excellent tries against their local rivals and kept them to ‘nil’ on the scoreboard. This victory leaves them in second place in the league table, just one point behind Dorking.
The match opened with the strong wind at the backs of the home team, allowing them to spend almost the entire 40 minutes in Tunbridge Wells territory. Oaks exerted early pressure through their effective rolling maul, early domination in the scrum and good use of the boot. It was from their advancing scrum the ball was moved out quickly for Henry Galligan to dummy and cross the line to make it 5-0. The conversion was understandably missed given the wind and treacherous footing. More Oaks possession immediately followed, with a 20-metre rolling maul setting up excellent field position for the backs to take over and after a break by Nigel Gumbleton, he passed to Awa Morris to score; 10-0 with 19 minutes played; conversion missed.
Fierce competition continued at the breakdown, with Oaks having the edge and with their runners frequently making good yards. Credit to Tunbridge Wells, who had started to stablise their scrum and were defending well but it was only a matter of time before Oaks would convert possession and territory into more points. At 40 minutes, having advanced to the Wells five metre line, their scrum was solid as Sean Derrick peeled off the back, to hand on to Matt McRae to score to make it 15-0. The conversion was successful; 17-0. The half finished with Tunbridge Wells’ best period of the game but their execution at their first attacking lineout faltered and Oaks saw out the remainder of the first period.
As the second 40 minutes began, unfortunately for the visitors the wind calmed, and the rain eased. That said it was the increase in speed of play by Oaks that took the game away from Tunbridge Wells. With rucks cleared more quickly and the ball transferred superbly despite the conditions, in the 43rd minute Josh Pettet made a strong break, passing onto Gumbleton to score under the posts. Converted to make the score 24-0 and the bonus point secured. The half continued in virtually unplayable conditions with both sides possibly racking up their record number of knock-ons in a single game J, with the most basic of handling skills almost impossible. Oaks managed to score two more tries, when a catch and drive from an attacking lineout saw James Simmons barrel over on the hour mark, to make it 29-0. Then Patrick Pellegrini put in Matt McRae for his 2nd try and Oaks’ 6th of the day, to make the score 36-0. The final whistle blew with Sevenoaks having played some excellent rugby in the conditions and Tunbridge Wells battling to the end but unable to threaten the home team’s line. Both sets of players deserved the applause as they left the pitch, with the Oaks’ victory fully deserved.
After the match Head Coach & Director of Rugby Adam Bowman said: “Considering the very difficult conditions I thought we were excellent today. We trusted our playing systems and executed very well.”
Next week is a rest week for Sevenoaks, before the long trip to North Walsham for a key top four clash on March 5th