Warlingham 0 Tonbridge Juddians 64
With the London 2 South East Championship clinched 2 weeks ago, this was TJ’s final league game of the season and a win would see them complete a remarkable sequence where they have won 44 consecutive league games. As for their hosts, Warlingham, it was a game that they really did not want to play as they found their season extended by two further weeks to accommodate rearranged fixtures. Having failed to put out a team against Hove the previous week the RFU have deducted them 4 points in next season’s competition so they had little option but to meet their commitments for this game.
Conversely, TJ's season is still very much alive. Next week sees them in action against Old Redcliffians (Bristol) in the national semi-final of the RFU Intermediate Cup so TJs aims for the day were to win, avoid injuries and maintain their momentum. As it turned out, they got the win and the momentum was sustained as TJs scored 10 tries but there were injuries to Ambrose, Cooper and Evans with Evans’s knee injury causing the greatest concern and he will now be a major doubt for next week’s game.
The game was played in brilliant sunshine on a hard pitch and TJs dominated the early exchanges as they denied Warlingham possession. After 7 minutes, Shaun Cooper scored the first try which he converted and, from the restart, TJs surged upfield, won a lineout and Biutiviti and Cooper combined well to put Lee Campion in for the second try.
12-0 to TJs after 10 minutes and again, from the restart, Tom Wagstaff charged up field and just failed to score but the field position he had secured was put to good use as try number 3 was then scored by Louis Ventin. 17-0 after 18 minutes and a cricket score beckoned but within 3minutes TJs were to suffer their first setback as Sean Cooper had to leave the field with a facial injury and Jack Mutch replaced him. As TJs readjusted, Warlingham got into the game more and for the next 15 minutes TJs were required to defend as the home side created promising positions but were unable to capitalise on them. In the end, it was the lively Peter Jennings who scored the fourth try (converted by Mutch) and at half time TJs led 24-0.
Setback number 2 was to occur during the break as Carl Ambrose left the action with a shoulder injury and was replaced by Haydn O’Toole. This gave rise to a number of positional changes in both the forwards and the backs and the test in the second half would now be how versatile were TJs, could they adapt to these changes and could they continue their open style of play? The answer was an emphatic ‘Yes’ as they scored a further 40 points.
Leading the charge and after an indifferent first half, was Sam Burgess who scored a hat-trick of tries, Campion scored his second and Jack Browne and O’Toole each scored one try with Jack Mutch adding five conversions. During this period, Warlingham showed occasional glimpses of what they might be capable of as they sought to breach TJs resolute defence but, as in so many games this season, TJs’ defence held firm as they were in no mood to concede points. As the game entered into its last ten minutes, setback number 3 occurred when Arthur Evans twisted his knee as he was heading for the try line. This was not what TJs wanted or needed as Evans has been a member of their front row.
So, the game ended with TJs having racked up 64 unanswered points in what was an impressive performance more so given the nature of the starting line-up and the positional changes that had to be made during the game. Their ability to improvise so well is a huge plus and certainly mitigates the impact of the injuries sustained during this game. The performance augurs well for next week’s showdown in Bristol and, whilst TJs take an unbeaten record into this game, it is likely that the standard of opposition they encounter will be higher than anything encountered in the last two seasons. So, game on!
Squad - Underhill; Evans; Ambrose (O’Toole); Carroll; Rankin (Manktelow); Chandler; Wagstaff; Finlayson-Green; Jennings; Cooper (Mutch); Burgess; Browne; Biutiviti; Campion; Ventin.
For directions to Old Redcliffians http://www.pitchero.com/clubs/oldredcliffians/ or coach transport to the game http://tjrfc.co.uk/
Tonbridge Juddians 57 Lewes 12
TJs had viewed this match with some apprehension but in the end the score was almost a repeat of last September’s away match.
On a dry sunny afternoon with a firm footing TJs started matters in something of a festive mood. Inside the first minute Oliver broke down the right wing and passed to Burgess who ran in and scored. It all looked too easy.
TJs were conceding penalties and thereby losing momentum but it was only ten more minutes before hooker Murray crashed through from short range to score. Fly-half Cooper, happily restored to full health after a recent rib injury, converted both tries to give TJs a fourteen point lead.
Three minutes on and Browne broke down the left wing for the next try which Chandler finished off. There was no conversion this time but the scoring resumed at the rate of a point a minute despite Lewes’ coming more into the game. Murray, having a fine game with ball in hands, managed to force his way over the line after his first thrust had been repelled.
It looked as though TJs were heading for a massive score but it did not quite work out like that – at least not at that time - for Lewes’ recovery continued. Their tackling and ball retention was more determined and their reward came with an unconverted try by right wing Bell.
TJs, now pushed onto the back foot, did well to resist a prolonged assault on their goal-line but, having broken the deadlock and taken the ball down field, their all-attacking frame of mind led to an interception try, again by Bell, who ran in under the posts from half-way. His try was converted so that at half-time, despite such a positive and powerful start, TJ’s only led by 26 points to 12.
The half-time talk produced a rather tighter second-half performance for TJs. They cut out most of the penalties and played with rather less careless abandon. A period of pressure from TJ’s forwards, who had the better of the scrums, won a ball for replacement Tanner to turn into a try.
Shortly, a backs’ move that seemed to have foundered in the middle of the field succeeded in sending the defence the wrong way and wing Burgess was able to cut back and cross for his second try. Both these tries were unconverted. Tanner scored again when a straightforward backs’ move from right to left gave him the space to speed through for his second try which Cooper converted.
TJs were now beginning to stretch away from their visitors and it was very unfortunate to see two-try Tanner and Lewes’ No 8 Ridley helped from the field after clashing heads in a tackle. TJs kept up the pressure and a series of close-quarter drives enabled wing-forward Wagstaff to come into the backline at pace and burst through for a try which Cooper converted to bring up TJ’s half century. Lewes, never giving up, just failed to add to their tally when a loose ball was hacked through to TJ’s line. However, the attacker was penalised for a push on TJ’s full back.
With the breeze cooling everybody down and the game drawing to a close a charge up-field by Oliver and Wagstaff allowed scrum-half Jennings to dart over for TJ’s last try which Cooper converted.
The final score was TJs 57 Lewes 12 with TJs having scored thirty-one unanswered points in the second half. It was a good flowing performance which, for the most part, was too much for Lewes whose best spell came at the end of the first half.
TJs have one more league match to play away at Warlingham on 24th April in a rearranged fixture. They will be anxious to maintain their good form and end the league season unbeaten – but Warlingham will, no doubt have other ideas.
Tonbridge Juddians: Oliver; Burgess, Biutiviti, Browne, Chandler (Tanner); Jennings, Cooper; Ambrose, Murray, Evans, Carroll, Underhill (Fitzpatrick), Wagstaff, Rankin, O’Toole.
Tottonians 15 Tonbridge Juddians 22 (Intermediate Cup Regional Final)
Last week TJs secured their place at the top of their league with two matches to go and ensured promotion next season. This week they travelled with a sizeable contingent of supporters to Totton, Southampton and took one more step on their way to a possible final in the Intermediate Cup at Twickenham.
Conditions were not conducive to running rugby. There was almost constant drizzle and the “going” on the muddy pitch was heavy.
TJs survived some early pressure and had difficulty getting hold of the ball but once they came to terms with the game and the conditions things started to improve. Wet conditions can work in your favour too and TJs used the towering kick-ahead from fly-half Wolmarans to good effect and put Tottonians defenders under considerable pressure.
TJs failed to take the lead with a penalty kick but having established a good position in Tottonians half, Wolmarans put in a high cross kick for the unmarked left wing, MacNamarra, to gather and run in to score. Wolmarans converted to set TJs on their way.
However, TJs immediately conceded a penalty for going over the ruck and Tottonians’ fly half kicked the three points to keep them in touch.TJs backs had the measure of their opponents and a break by Browne took TJs up-field. From the ruck Jennings continued the attack with Wagstaff on his shoulder who took the scoring pass. Remarkably the conversion was missed!
To score a try and immediately concede a penalty on one occasion is bad enough but to do so again is even worse. TJs offended in front of the posts and Tottonians gratefully accepted another three points. Worse still was to come when a third penalty to Tottonians took the score 9 to 12 without the home side having once threatened TJ’s line. Once more TJs surged back up the pitch with the lively Jennings making a significant dent in Tottonians defence. TJs won the ruck when he was pulled down and the ball was moved quickly out to MacNamarra who had the pace and the space to score an unconverted try in the corner.
Tottonians did threaten TJ’s line just before half time when their right wing was tackled into touch short of the line. On the stroke of half-time a fourth penalty enabled Tottonians once more to close the gap and take the half time tally to Tottonians 12 TJs 17. Fortunately for TJs Tottonians failed to close the gap with yet another penalty attempt early in the second half.
Cooper came on as a replacement and his strong running had an immediate effect when he created an opportunity for MacNamarra who just failed to make the line.
TJs now battered Tottonians line with two consecutive 5 metre scrums and many pick-and-goes but each time they were turned back. Finally, with the ball being moved wide to the right wing Farmer followed up his chip-ahead to touch down. This score gave TJs a comforting 10 point lead.
TJs continued to press but could not break through to score and when Tottonians scored with the second of two penalties TJ’s collective nerves began to jangle – one goal would tie the scores. With 12 minutes to go TJs missed a chance to widen the gap with a penalty of their own and so the jangling continued for the rest of the match which included some ten minutes of additional time!
And so the match came to an end. Tottonians had failed to cross TJ’s line whereas TJs had played well and scored four good tries. Nevertheless, throughout the match the home side were never more than ten points adrift and their fly-half’s boot kept them constantly in touch reminding TJs that in December 2008, in last season’s cup competition, it was this same boot that had put them out!
Now the tables had been turned and TJs march on to a national semi-final against, it is believed, Old Redcliffians from Bristol at a venue yet to be decided.
Next week TJs return to league competition when Lewes will be the visitors to The Slade, kick-off 3.00 pm.
Tonbridge Juddians: Oliver; Farmer, Biutiviti (Cooper), Browne, MacNamarra; Jennings, Wolmarans; Ambrose, Stoor (Murray), Evans, Carroll, Rankin (caopt), Wagstaff, Finlayson-Green, O’Toole.
KCS Old Boys 15 Tonbridge Juddians 45
TJs travelled to New Malden on Saturday with three objectives: to win the match and thus, to win the league and to reach 1000 points for the season so far.
KCS started the match in TJ’s half hinting that TJ’s aims were not going to be easily achieved. KCS’ chance to take the lead went begging when a penalty attempt went wide.
In due course TJs got to grips with the game. Oliver’s fine break and pass took Browne to just short of the line. From the subsequent five-metre scrum TJ’s pack had KCS in trouble. The pressure drew a penalty which Mutch took quickly and dived over for TJ’s first try which Browne converted.
A penalty kick to the corner put KCS in a good position. TJs infringed at the ensuing line-out and KCS’ full-back kicked the three points. A further KCS penalty attempt fell short as did a TJ shot at the other end. Campion, this week at full-back, made a fine, long break out of defence only to see the final pass go to ground but a subsequent move involving Burgess, Biutiviti and Rankin put Oliver over in the corner for an unconverted try.
At the end of a rather scrappy half TJs had established a lead of 3 – 12. They had survived early pressure from the home side and had had their fair share of possession but at times their play, notably their kicking, lacked precision with a number of scoring opportunities wasted.
The second half saw the return from injury of scrum-half Jennings with Mutch showing his versatility by moving to the wing. Jennings was in immediate action. From a line-out his darting break made space for Biutiviti to score from close in. Mutch converted. TJs were having the better of the scrums and from one such, centre Browne came through on a good line for a try which, once again, Mutch again converted.
With the score at 3-26 TJ’s supporters now felt a little happier with the situation and relaxed even more when Rankin and Murray charged up the field to set up a ruck from which Campion, and Mutch combined for Oliver to score his second try.
Now in a comfortable position, TJs may have relaxed for back came KCS with a sustained attack which ended with an unconverted try in the corner. This provoked a response from TJs with Jennings making a break from the base of the scrum. He passed on to lock Rankin who sped, with associated side-step, through the opposition. The ruck-ball was quick and Biutiviti was on hand once again to take the scoring pass. Mutch converted.
Aided by a number of TJ penalties, KCS proceeded purposefully up field and it was from a quickly-taken penalty that they scored their second try which was converted.
TJs did have the last word. From a scrum on KCS’ 22, No 8 O’Toole broke blind with Jennings close at hand. Winger Burgess had sufficient room to run round under the posts to score and make Mutch’s fourth conversion that much easier.
This was a rather hot-and-cold performance by TJs against competent and resilient opponents but it did achieve their objectives: a win, securing their place, with two matches to go, as league champions and a grand total of 1040 points in the league thus far.
On Easter Saturday 3rd April 2010, TJs travel to Southampton to play Tottonians in the next round of the Intermediate Cup. Tottonians, in last year’s cup match, are the only side to have beaten TJs in league and cup matches for two seasons. TJs will be working hard to turn the tables.
Tonbridge Juddians: Evans (Underhill), Stoor (Murray), Ambrose; Carroll, Rankin, Wagstaff, Finlayson-Green, O’Toole; Mutch, Oliver; Burgess, Biutiviti, Browne, Chandler (Jennings); Campion.