Tunbridge Wells RFC, the local side where yours truly plies his coaching trade with the club’s Academy, is getting ready to make its Twickenham debut.
The first trip to HQ in the club’s 85-year history comes at the end of a record-breaking season. Tunbridge Wells has won 28 matches in a row to reach the Final of the national Intermediate Cup, as well as claim the London 2 South East league title with two games to spare.
Wells came through a tense regional Final against Matson RFC to secure their Twickenham place, seeing an early 15-0 lead extinguished as Matson refused to lie down. The score drawn at 15-15 midway through the second half, it took a spell of Wells pressure before both wingers, Jake Thompson and Lee Campion (his second of the afternoon), were able to cross the white wash, to the delight of over 1,000 home supporters.
Conversely, Wells claimed the League title in emphatic style, romping to a 16-try, 104-0 drubbing of Ashford at their St Mark’s home. But in a remarkably ironic twist, their Twickenham opponents, Cumbrian-based St Benedicts, posted a 105-0 victory over North Lancs/Cumbria opponents Ashton-Under-Lyne later that day.
As such, Twickenham will, no doubt, be a closer affair. Benedicts only have 42 years of history to build on but that will, we’re sure, make them no less resolved to win at HQ.
So how are Wells preparing? We spoke to Director of Rugby Alex Nicholson to get the scoop on the team’s build-up to ‘the pinnacle moment in the club’s history’.
Take The Three: What’s been the key to the success this season?
Alex Nicholson: The key to this year has been creating the right infrastructure for the players and getting a game plan that utilises the players’ strengths. Making things more professional has also been key.
TTT: What is the focus ahead of Twickenham?
AN: We want to keep doing what we have been doing all season, keep things as consistent as we can. We believe we have an excellent opportunity having had a week’s rest [the RFU agreed Wells’ final League game didn’t need to be played], so we’ve been able to stay fresh and keep working on the key elements of our game plan. The players are well grounded and focusing on what we are trying to achieve and what individually they can bring to the team.
TTT: Do you know anything about St Benedicts that can be used, or will it be a case of just sticking to the regular game plan?
AN: They are a tough side that like to get on the front foot. They are hard in the tackle and like to play rugby as well. That said, we know if we can play the way we can we will be in with a good shout of victory.
TTT: Has the side done anything else other than regular training in preparation for the big game?
AN: We were conscious of keeping things as normal as we can but we have done a little extra conditioning to keep the squad fresh and ready to go on Saturday.
TTT: How have the club and supporters got on board with promoting the big trip?
AN: The support we have been getting from the club and local community has been incredible. We have had huge media interest locally and nationally and a committee has been set up within the club to drum up support, book coaches to Twickenham and get special merchandise made up. Having the merchandise shops has certainly raised the profile of us and the big game around the town and further afield. The club has been very proactive!
TTT: What are hopes for next season?
AN: We need to kick on and take this momentum into next season. We are an ambitious community rugby club that has aspirations of playing National League rugby. It’s the next step for this great club and I am excited about the challenges ahead.
The Tunbridge Wells team to face St Benedicts at Twickenham, 3pm K.O., is:
- 1. Julius Redman
- 2. Sean O’Connor
- 3. Anthony Vaigafa Malu
- 4. Matt Cook
- 5. Christian Earle
- 6. James Lineham
- 7. Michael Hathaway
- 8. Nick Doherty
- 9. Charles Spence
- 10. Charlie Harding
- 11. Guthrie Holliday
- 12. Fred Tila
- 13. Alex Maynard
- 14. Lee Campion
- 16. Stuart Nicholls
- 17. Tim Collins
- 18. Stephen Harvey
- 19. Andrew Burgess
- 20. Jake Thompson
- 21. Charlie Rigby
- 22. Tom George
Photos by Bruce Elliott Photos