Tonbridge Juddians 40 Chichester 28
TJ’s league matches against Chichester have been as bookends to the season. In the first encounter back in September TJs tasted life in their new, higher division and won a tight match away from home 13 to 27. Last Saturday a similar hard-fought and bruising match was won at The Slade by 40 points to 28.
The sun was shining, the ground w as hard and bare of grass in places. It made for a fast open game with dust rising whenever the two sides came into contact.
Chichester made a storming start but maybe a little too enthusiastically seeing their No 6 Ferguson yellow-carded after just two minutes of play. They were also awarded two penalties both in kickable positions. The first went into touch in the corner and lost the line-out. The second was a shot at goal from in front, which was inexplicably missed. Potentially, six points had gone begging.
TJs having survived the early onslaught got their game together and proceeded up-field finally to drive over the line. The referee ruled the ball was held up but from the ensuing five metre scrum the ball reached winger Nauer who cut back inside and with strength and the aid of his forwards battered his way over the line. Redman converted to give TJs first blood after a quarter of the match had gone.
Sykes broke through and winger Campion nearly added to TJ’s score some five minutes later but the final pass was knocked on. Keeping up the pressure the same two players featured in the next score. The ball was passed out to the backs. Sykes was tackled and the ball recycled quickly. Nauer, bursting through had to hurdle over the supine Sykes as he recovered from the earlier tackle for his second try. The conversion this time was kicked by Harding.
At this stage TJs looked quite comfortable in their lead but not for long. Chichester ever-keen to take the try rather than the penalty kick at goal drove over from a line out. Hooker Lawrence was the try scorer and fly-half Adams converted.
As an immediate response, TJ’s scrum-half Hamlin picked up the ball on Chichester’s 10 metre line and sped, scythed and side-stepped his way through the defence to score a great individual try under the posts. Harding converted to restore TJ’s fourteen point advantage.
Tit for tat, Chichester’s full back Golds made a fine long break but winger Fairbairn could not hold on to his pass.
After a passage of aerial ping-pong the ball fell to Chichester who made good ground and forced a penalty out of TJs. They kicked, once more into touch in the corner. At the line-out TJs were deemed to have offended, presumably by pulling down the maul but apparently for side-entry. After just one offence the “zero-tolerance” referee immediately awarded a penalty try under the posts. The conversion was kicked by Adams so that at half-time the score was TJs 21 Chichester 14.
The first half had seen Chichester desperate to win at all costs. They were going to be no push-over. TJs however were good enough to resist this attitude and had demonstrated a slight superiority in the scrum and a constant threat from their hard-running backs.
The second half started with a good spell for TJs. Within five minutes of the restart the combination of Sykes and Thorpe ended with wing forward Martin crossing for a try which Harding converted once more re-establishing TJ’s 14 point advantage. And perhaps with this relatively comfortable margin TJs relaxed just a little and their tackling in the close-quarter exchanges, with some notable exceptions, became a little less than convincing. However, they did add to their score. Having manoeuvred the game into the corner Sykes put Nauer in for his third try. This time it went unconverted Harding’s kick hitting the upright.
Chichester were not finished. A first drive at TJ’s line was held up but the second, off the scrum, was successful, with replacement Dickin touching down. Adams added the two for the conversion.
As he had done in the first half scrum half Hamlin took the matter of a response into his own hands and almost immediately following Chichester’s score he wriggled his way through to touch down under the posts for Harding to do the necessary. The conversion took the score to TJs 40 Chichester 21.
For the last fifteen minutes of the match TJs had to play with fourteen men when hooker Stoor was injured and there were no further front row player replacements. The scrums then became non-contested an area in which TJs had had the ascendancy. Thus, TJs suffered two blows and the game came to a rather scrappy end.
Chichester scored the last try. The regular attacking tactic of penalty-to-corner, line-out and drive-over producing a second try for hooker Lawrence which Adams converted.
Then Chichester’s lively and creative fly-half Adams was hurt and the final chapter of the game turned into a farce with interminable delays between action and an ever-developing niggle between the players. The final and most hurtful blow came with just one minute to go when TJ’s prop Evans was red-carded for a high tackle. This decision was, sadly, applauded by the Chichester players. The game was already won and lost, the sixteen minutes of injury time played were quite unnecessary and the red-card incident marred what had been an entertaining, well contested if sometimes over-robust match.
Thus TJ’s magnificent league season came to an end: they won 25 out of 26 matches, scored 1122 points and conceded 341. They totted up 21 bonus points and ended with a total of 121 league points, thirteen ahead of London Irish Amateur in second place. They achieved promotion for the third successive season, a truly remarkable feat.
Tonbridge Juddians: Redman; Nauer, Harding, Sykes, Campion (Mutch); Cooper, Hamlin; Ambrose (Underhill), Stoor, Evans, Carroll, Thorpe (capt), Martin, Rankin, Blom (Chandler).
Geoff Pettitt - pics by Steve Lawrence
Portsmouth 15 Tonbridge Juddians 56
In conditions better suited to cricket, TJs played their penultimate London Division 1 South league game at Portsmouth and came away with a convincing victory by 8 goals to Portsmouth’s goal, try and dropped goal. In so doing, Charlie Harding had an impressive afternoon scoring 21 points including a 100% record with his goal kicking (8 conversions). TJs were without their captain Will Thorpe and hooker Jamie Stoor but there were ‘starts’ for Tom Wagstaff and Neil Underhill and Ryan Redman and Lee Campion returned to the side having missed the previous week’s Kent Cup game against Blackheathens.
Portsmouth, placed 7th in the league, got the game going and within a minute won a penalty that they failed to convert. The home side had much of the play in the opening minutes but TJs remained solid in defence and eventually, after 6 minutes, they scored their first points with a long range effort that Pat Sykes created and Harding finished off. 7-0 to TJs and they had barely set foot into the Portsmouth ‘22’.
Portsmouth’s young XV continued to pressurise TJs and, in one sequence, the home side were awarded 3 penalties close to the TJ line but on each occasion they failed to score. TJs were having trouble clearing their line and, after 30 minutes, Pompey’s pressure paid off as following another miscued clearance kick, Gates found space on the right wing to score an unconverted try in the corner. With the score at 7-5 to the visitors, TJs eventually started to put their game together and after 35 minutes TJs paid their second visit to the Portsmouth ‘22’ where Christoph Blom set up a rampaging Carl Ambrose for a try and Harding added the extras. Peter Jennings was responsible for TJs next try when he took an inside pass from Blom and his pace and sidesteps from 30 metres out were enough to unbalance the home side’s defence. Harding converted and there the score remained until half-time. So, without having applied any real territorial pressure, TJs found themselves 3 goals to the good when they had only visited Portsmouth’s ‘22’ on four occasions. Their clinical finishing complemented by Harding’s excellent goal kicking, the power of the back row (particularly Blom and Wagstaff), the strength of centres, the speed of the wingers and their overall support play meant that when TJs had the ball they always looked dangerous. TJ’s problem in this half was the home side’s determination and they must have felt miffed with only one try to show for all their hard work.
Within two minutes of the second half starting, Sykes supported Sean Cooper’s break following an impressive build-up to score TJ’s fourth try and secure a bonus point and with Harding converting, the game now looked to be beyond Portsmouth. Campion added try number 5 seven minutes later when he fielded a poor clearance kick from the home side, eluded four tackles and, with an impressive turn of speed, headed for the try line. Portsmouth were quick to respond when Cartmill dropped a goal to bring the score to 35-8 and they continued to hammer away at TJs but to little effect.
As the game headed towards the last 15 minutes, it’s most controversial moment occurred. Liam Rankin contested a Portsmouth lineout but, in so doing, was adjudged by the referee to have committed an act of dangerous play by dragging down his opposite number. Much to the astonishment of the crowd, the referee sent Rankin off thereby leaving TJs a man short. As it turned out, it was too late for the home side to make their extra man count but it was not too late for TJs to score three more goals. First Blom bulldozed his way over the tryline followed by Redman who had spent most of the afternoon defending and, finally, Richard Nauer finished off Harding’s mid-field break. In between, Gates scored his and Portsmouth’s second try.
After the game, TJs captain, Will Thorpe maintained a discreet silence about Rankin’s dismissal but expressed his satisfaction over the result and team performance describing it as ‘professional’! Indeed it was, but full credit to Portsmouth for having a real go at the league leaders: they dominated the game for a large part but they did not have the power, experience and incisive pace of TJs and, in the end, that is what made the difference.
Squad: Underhill (Finlayson-Green); Evans; Ambrose; Carroll; Rankin; Martin (Chandler); Wagstaff; Blom; Jennings; Cooper; Nauer; Sykes; Harding; Campion; Redman. Replacement not used: Hamlin
Next week sees the final league game and a fascinating encounter against Chichester at the Slade (3pm). TJs already have secured the league title but Chichester are third just one point behind London Irish who are second and who have to travel to Thanet for their final game. In order to make the ‘play-offs’ and stand a chance of promotion, Chichester need to overturn that one point difference. There are several ways that might be achieved so it should be an intriguing afternoon’s rugby.
And finally, TJs are on Kent Cup Final duty on May 1 at Canterbury when they play Gravesend.
Tonbridge Juddians 46 Blackheathans 16
This was the semi-final of the Kent Cup and it was played in warm, sunny conditions – which demanded a water break at quarter-time - on a dry pitch with a light breeze. The crowd of between 350 and 400 had the prospect of an open, fast running game.
The early exchanges were lively, Blackheath intending perhaps to hustle TJs out of their stride. TJ’s Nauer prevented an almost certain try when he tackled the visitors’ winger into touch just a few metres from the line. Blackheath kept up their early pressure and a penalty for a high tackle gave their fly-half the opportunity to put them in the lead with a long kick. For a while TJs were slightly at sixes and sevens and two line-out throws drifted over their intended target.
However, TJs did show some early signs of dominance at the scrum and they were rewarded for their efforts when Blackheath’s front row broke up and Harding kicked the ensuing penalty.
Blackheath’s back three may have been disconcerted by the magnificent tackle by Nauer in the first couple of minutes of the match because a high kick ahead by Cooper was fumbled and TJ’s new-boy flanker Collingham needed no second bidding to gather and cross the try line under the posts. Harding added the two for the conversion.
Throughout the game TJs conceded penalties, often to the dismay and puzzlement of the home spectators, and one such from just inside TJ’s half was kicked, again by Blackheath’s fly-half. This brought the score to TJs 10 Blackheath 6.
A fine break by winger Nauer, who had a strong game throughout, was taken on by Jennings and Carroll and appeared to have brought TJs a second try but it was deemed to have been “held-up”. From the five-metre scrum TJ’s solid pack produced the ball for No 8 Blom to batter his way over the line for an unconverted try.
Gradually, TJs had overcoe the initial blustering assault of their visitors. A poor clearance was fielded by Nauer and with the defence now substantially out of position he was able to pass on to flanker Martin who crossed for the try which Harding converted.
Blackheath did threaten TJ’s line when they opted to kick a penalty into the corner for a good attacking position but the line-out and drive were successfully resisted by a determined TJ defence. And so half-time came with the score at TJs 22 Blackheath 6. The half had seen a fiery start by the visitors which TJs successfully weathered then gradually pulled away.
In the second half TJs soon showed that they were eager to add to their tally. Nauer and Stoor charged down the left touchline before Stoor was edged into touch just short of the line. Blackheath’s throw-in was ruled not straight and TJs won the ball at the subsequent scrum. A passing move from left to right brought full-back Hamlin into the line. He made the extra man and he went on to touch down in the right hand corner. Harding converted with a fine kick from the touchline.
A Blackheath foray into TJ’s 22 finally came to an end when Carroll took the ball at the visitors’ attacking line-out and TJ’s forwards were able drive away from the danger zone. Blackheath’s No 16 upset the referee and was yellow-carded for an offence at that same driving maul.
TJs failed to find touch with the subsequent penalty kick but, as luck would have it, it worked to their advantage. The clearing kick was charged down by the chasing TJ runners and centre Sykes was on hand to pick up and run through to score in the left hand corner. Harding hit the target with another fine kick.
TJs were soon back on the attack. Jennings was just about to pick up behind his forwards to launch the three-quarters he was knocked over - by a possibly off-side and early tackle. Once more the incident played to TJ’s benefit for the ball remained untouched on the ground. First to it was TJ’s lock Rankin, who had a storming game throughout. He picked up and almost unopposed crossed the line for a try which Harding converted.
Three-quarters of the game was now gone and the win was almost certainly in TJ’s pocket and a little relaxation may have been crept into the home team. Several missed tackles allowed Blackheath’s busy fly-half through for a try which, strangely, he failed to convert. And, five minutes later Blackheath’s No 4 crossed in the right hand corner for an unconverted try after the standard penalty-to-corner and line-out tactic had brought a successful drive by the visitors.
The last score went to TJs. From just inside the ten metre line Harding kicked a long, straight penalty to bring the final score to TJs 46 Blackheathans 16.
This was a hard-fought win for the home side in which they scored six tries to Blackheath’s two. It takes them to the final of the Kent Cup which will be played at Canterbury on Sunday 1st May.
Tonbridge Juddians: Hamlin; Lewis, Sykes, Harding, Nauer; Jennings, Cooper; Ambrose (Underhill), Stoor, Evans, Carroll, Rankin, Martin (Wagstaff), Collingham, Blom.
Next week TJs travel to Portsmouth for their penultimate game in the league. Despite having already won the league title, they will not wish to lose their winning streak.
Geoff Pettitt - Pictures by Steve "Sticky" Lawrence CLICK HERE for some more images taken by Liam McAvoy as well
CLICK HERE for match report by Blackheath
Tonbridge Juddians 35 Haywards Heath 13
TJs completed a second win over their visitors on Saturday and with it secured first place in London League 1 South and there are two league matches still to play. Next season will see TJs playing in National League Three London & South East.
It was not an easy game for Haywards Heath came with every intention of thwarting TJ’s early clinching of the title of champions.
Things did not start well for the home side. Within the very first minute Hayward Heath’s fly-half Philip had converted a penalty to give the visitors a three point lead. TJ’s response was immediate. A penalty award was put into touch close to HH’s line and from a well-executed catch-and-drive No 8 Blom touched down for TJ’s first try. Redman converted with a good kick from wide out. TJs had taken a lead that they were not to lose for the rest of the match.
Haywards Heath in their turn reacted well showing good handling in a fast attack. The game moved back and forward up and down the pitch at a somewhat frantic pace with both sides demonstrating an intention to run together with an equal and opposite determination not to let the other side score.
TJ’s next score was a carbon copy of the first: penalty kick to touch in the corner, good catch and drive over the line for Blom, once again, to touch down. This time, however, Redman’s conversion attempt drifted wide.
And TJs stretched their lead some four minutes later when a free-kick was taken quickly by the storming Blom. He made the first dent in the defence and fly-half Cooper was on hand to bustle over for TJ’s third try. Redman converted to take TJ’s lead to 19 – 3 after some 15 minutes of the match
Haywards Heath might also have benefited from the penalty-kick-into-the-corner tactic but having gained a good position their throw-in was deemed not straight which allowed TJs to clear their lines.
After some thirty minutes of the half, a brawl occurred which could have had a profound effect on the result of the match. TJ’s skipper Thorpe was red-carded for retaliation and prop Ambrose was yellow-carded for joining in. Bizarrely none of the visitors’ players was ruled part of the problem! Thus, for the following line-out TJs were two forwards short and Haywards Heath’s Hillman was able to cross for an unconverted try in the corner.
The remaining ten minutes or so of the first half were played out at great speed and ferocity, the incident no doubt having helped to raise the temperature of an already aggressive, hard-fought game.
Half-time came with TJs in the lead by 19 points to 8 but with only fourteen men on the field. HH’s backs had shown an intention on the hard ground to run with the ball and their handling looked sure and certain. Would TJs be able to hold onto their lead?
The almost immediate answer to this question was a definite Yes. TJ’s Campion fielded a kick-ahead on the half-way line on the right hand side of the field. He then ran diagonally across to the left hand side of the field and outpaced the defence and ran round under the posts to score. This fine individual try, a Campion trademark, was converted by Redman and was perhaps a telling blow to Haywards Heath’s ambitions. But they rallied well and having established a good attacking position in TJ’s half they reduced the arrears when, finding space on the right, winger French crossed for their second unconverted try.
TJs had the edge in the scrum but, as is often the case these days, this dominance did not prove of any great benefit to them.
TJs added just three more scores to their tally, all were penalties: the first, a low-trajectory effort by Redman from just inside the opposition half, the second a short, straight kick by Harding and the third, also by Harding, a long kick from the visitors’ 10 metre line.
The game was now effectively won but both sides continued the contest to the end and in so doing Haywards Heath’s wing-forward Salisbury was yellow-carded. Haywards Heath did fashion a fine attack which foundered only when the last pass went forward. TJs, for their part, defended their position with determined tackling and covering and some fierce counter-rucking.
This was a fine win by TJs against a fast and spirited opposition who from time to time looked extremely dangerous with ball-in-hand.
All of TJs players rose well to the occasion and all can take great credit from their performance when the team’s effort reaped a significant reward. No 8 Blom was in particularly robust form, prop Ambrose showed pace and drive in the loose and lock Carroll was prominent in both line-out and open play.
Tonbridge Juddians: Redman (Jennings); Campion, Harding, Sykes, Nauer; Cooper, Hamlin; Ambrose, Stoor, Evans (Underhill), Carroll, Thorpe (captain), Rankin (Wagstaff), Martin, Blom.
Next Saturday 2nd April 2011 TJs entertain Blackheath at The Slade in a semi-final of the Kent Cup kick-off 3.00 pm.
Geoff Pettitt - Pics by Sticky Lawrence