Southend Make It Two In A Row
Saxons grind out the win in a muddy encounter in Kent
It was two wins in a row for the Saxons in a battle against Tunbridge Wells on Saturday afternoon.
From the get go the home side pushed the Saxons hard, quickly finding their feet in the mud to get an upper hand in the scrummaging, and dominating the possession and territory that had Southend on the back foot, defending hard, in the opening stages of the game.
That is not to say that the Saxons did not have chances in the first twenty minutes. When they had the ball, they kept hold of it, rather than kicking for territory, and played from deep. But found that Tunbridge Wells were very adept at keeping them hemmed inside their own half.
The first real chance for points came when Southend managed to edge their way into the home side’s half. With Tunbridge coming offside in the play, the Saxons found themselves with the penalty, in range of fly half Adam Dobson’s boot. Wanting to come away from this time in the opposition half with some points, it was an easy decision to go for the posts, and Dobson neatly slotted the kick, putting the Saxons up by three.
This kick seemed to be the turning point of the first half as far as play was concerned. From being focused mainly inside the Saxons’ half, now it was Southend pushing in attack and concentrating the play in the Tunbridge half instead. A series of scrums saw Southend gain the advantage over their counterparts, and wield this set piece as an effective weapon – especially as the conditions meant there were a lot of scrums – even resulting in a yellow card for the home side as they were forced to resort to illegal methods to halt the Saxons.
With Tunbridge Wells down to fourteen men for the remainder of the first half, Southend continued to dominate in the scrummaging, and came so close to scoring a try from this effort, but a knock on drew this particular passage of play to an end.
Despite being down a man, Tunbridge Wells went all guns blazing into the following scrum and were able to break down the centre channel, scrambling to make it out of their own half. Southend dragged the home side into contact and turned the ball over. Forward Franco Maggiolo then took the Saxons back on the attack.
Play crossed over onto the far side, and once again demonstrating their patience, the Saxons gradually gained ground metre by metre. Another penalty going their way saw the Saxons go for the line out, and from this set piece the forwards combined to go barging over the line for the score. As the bodies emerged from the pile, it was Marcus Bloomberg who scored the try. Dobson’s conversion was solid, and the Saxons were ten points up.
Not content with a ten-point lead at the break, Southend continued to push Tunbridge Wells hard in these final minutes, and were rewarded with another try. Going straight on the offensive from the restart, Southend had put together several quick phases of play to take them into the Tunbridge twenty-two before the home side marshalled their defensive line, forcing the Saxons to slow down the attack and grind out the phases.
It was on one of these phases that scrum half Tony Sprangers spotted the opportunity to sneak through, and he immediately took it, leaping over the ruck and crashing down next to the posts for the second try of the game. With the last play of the first half, Adam Dobson slotted the extras and Southend were seventeen points clear.
HALF TIME: TUNBRIDGE WELLS SOUTHEND SAXONS
The second half continued in a similar vein as the first half; lots of scrums, lots of attrition, and there would be no more points in this game for the Saxons, despite their best efforts to add to their tally in the second forty minutes.
It took until the sixty-sixth minute of the game for a score to be registered in this half. The third quarter of the game dominated by handling errors of the muddy ball, and both sides resorting to the aerial ball to try and spark something.
Off of one of these aerial plays, the home side decided to go from deep instead of responding with a kick of their own, and they were able to cruise into the Saxons half almost unchallenged before being brought down. Changing the direction of the play, Tunbridge Wells found the gap on the far side wing, and were able to quickly cut through the Southend defence and score. They also added the extras, cutting the deficit down to ten points.
Southend had a couple of penalties as the game closed out; opting for the points on two occasions to try and extend the lead and put the game out of reach of Tunbridge, but the kicks were missed.
The final minutes of the game were a tense affair, as the home side scored another try – but crucially unconverted - with five minutes to go.
Pushing the Saxons hard in the dying minutes of the game, Tunbridge Wells were determined to get the try, and really had Southend on the back foot defensively. But the Saxons kept their heads, and their discipline, and were able to see out the game.
FULL TIME: TUNBRIDGE WELLS 12 – 17 SOUTHEND SAXONS
Speaking after the game, Coach Josh Ward said "I am immensely proud of the character the boys showed to grind out the win. We will enjoy tonight and then look forward to keeping the momentum going into the next block of games."
Captain Ian Morrison added, "a fantastic performance from the boys today, and credit to those boys who stepped up last minute for us. I thought that it demonstrated the squad mentality that we have developed, and we showed character to get the win on the road."
The next fixture for the Saxons is a Cup game against Brentwood next weekend, before the League action returns to Warners Bridge on the 25th November, with a game against Hertford.
Photo: Jonathan Wagstaff Photography