At least not in Tunbridge Wells’ eyes.
Tunbridge Wells RFC were simply too good for St Benedicts as they claimed the RFU Intermediate Cup at Twickenham on Saturday and their 29th consecutive win in the process.
A combination of speedy ball delivery, incisive running lines, deft offloading, strong set-piece and breakdown work and some clever kicking saw them romp to a resounding eight-try victory over their Cumbrian opponents.
Coach-load upon coach-load of Tunbridge Wells locals travelled to Twickenham, many of whom had never seen TWRFC in action but made the journey because of the historic nature of the fixture and an exceptional promotional effort by the club. So much so that the fixture enjoyed a record crowd, the West stand a sea of blue as the supporters proudly wore a mixture of specially printed ‘stash’ to mark the occasion.
Wells calmed down after an ‘over-enthusiastic’ first few minutes, in which winger Lee Campion was yellow-carded for a high tackle. St Benedicts were unable to use the advantage though and, a disallowed try aside, made little inroads into the Wells defence. A St Benedicts handling error gave Wells a scrum and from here they showed huge ambition, running the ball out of their 22, with inside centre Fred Tila providing the penetration and winger Guthrie Holliday making ground out wide.
A scrum 5m out from the St Benedicts’ line gave Wells the chance to exert dominance at the set-piece and, when awarded a penalty, they chose a second scrum in front of the posts. Passing on the three-point option proved the right call when the ensuing drive gave no.8 Nick Doherty the chance to drive over the line for the opening score, full-back Hayden Pope converting: 7-0.
After strong running from the Wells pack Campion returned to the pitch and made an immediate impact, taking a pop from Tila, streaking down the right wing and putting outside centre Alex Maynard in space to cruise in under the posts. Pope converted: 14-0.
Big forward carries from the likes of Christian Earle, Matt Cook and James Lineham set up Wells with the position for Campion to claim his own five minutes later. The winger scooped up a beautifully weighted grubber kick through from fly-half Charlie Harding, while his second came on the 30minute mark. A move that started with a Wells scrum on their 22, saw Tila on another barraging run, hands through Maynard and Harding, with Campion providing the support line: 24-0.
Pope added a penalty but a scrappy couple of minutes allowed St Benedicts the final say of the half, their winger Ryan Fisher crossing after gathering a chip through from full-back Mike Hawley. The try was converted and the half ended 27-7 to Wells.
A sloppy restart from Wells gave St Benedicts a scrum shortly after the break and Hawley was able to take advantage of a some sluggish defence to cross for the Cumbrian side’s second, fly-half Daniel Rayson again adding the extras: 27-14.
What could have been a pivotal moment for St Benedicts proved to be quite the opposite as Wells flicked the switch. Scrum-half Chaz Spence, the son of locally-based golf professional Jamie, provided lightning quick ball all game, with which Harding was able to pull the strings and the first of four second-half tries came shortly after. Holliday hit a great line off a scrum, slicing through the St Benedicts defence, before feeding Tila. The Australian had done a superb job as the Wells battering ram to this point and was rewarded with a try of his own, whilst seemingly carrying half the St Benedicts teams over the line with him. A Pope conversion made it 34-14.
Wells now rang the changes, giving its bench the chance to grace the hallowed turf while choruses of ‘Stand up if you love The Wells’ resonated around the stadium, largely thanks to the vocal Tunbridge Wells football team, who had also made the trip to support.
The fresh legs allowed the flood gates to open as three tries followed. Doherty was hauled up just short of the line after an excellent run in space, and scrum-half Chaz Spence was able to dash over from the loose ball, Harding added his own and Pope crossing for the final score, converting his own try. Harding also took it upon himself to claim a neat drop-goal taking the final score to 56-14.
Captain Sean O’Connor lifted the Cup in front of the jubilant crowd and the celebrations that started in the Twickenham changing rooms went on at the TWRFC club house until the small hours of the morning. Needless to say there were some sore heads on Sunday as Wells, in a busy weekend for the club, hosted the Whiting and Hammond 7s, winners medals resplendent around the necks of those involved in Saturday’s victory.
Photos courtesy of the excellent Bruce Elliott Photos.