Tring suffered something of a wake up call last weekend, put to the sword 58-12 by an excellent Tonbridge Juddians side. Any slight mistakes were punished without mercy by the clinical Kent side, inflicting our second loss of the campaign.
When we arrived at the Tonbridge ground, we were confused to say the least. The ground was more like the Serengeti than the leafy English Country Garden we were expecting. Despite rain during the week, the pitch was an arid wasteland and rock hard. The weather forecast had been for a chilly afternoon but instead the sun blazed and temperatures were rising. We were in for a fast and physical game.
|Tonbridge Juddians - a class side|
In the build up to the game, there had been much talk - too much talk - of their new signings this year, where their strengths are, what we should watch out for. Admittedly it was useful to know where our attentions should be, but we focused too much on them.
We all made the error of reading their comprehensive match programme. The Tonbirdge team was littered with former New Zealand and Australia representatives, South African Currie Cup players and the like, evidence of the home side flexing its financial muscles. This put us in the wrong mindset and we gave them far too much respect.
That said, we started the game well. We looked after the ball, putting together strings of phases and our backs looked dangerous when the ball went wide. Our new centre pairing of Papa Bear and the Mateai Express were causing problems and the outright gas of winger Ben Selwyn was a constant threat.
However, two missed penalties meant we didn't capitalise on our early pressure - although we were all somewhat taken aback by Openside Leulunui's slightly schoolboy coughing as Chennells took the kicks.
Inevitably, Tonbridge showed why they have made such a strong start to the season. The home side had a monstrous front five and dominated the scrum. A knock-on on our 22m line gave them a perfect attacking platform and, against the run of play, a grubber kick through landed perfectly into Winger Norman's hands for a score in the corner.
We continued to press, our lineout was working particularly well. However, two more missed penalties and an optimistic drop goal effort meant we had still failed to convert pressure into points. And then the home side turned the screw. In the middle 20 minute period, Tonbridge scored 34 unanswered points, which totally killed us. Their dominance at the scrum and savvy breakdown play ruined any platform we built and allowed their aggressive running backs to take advantage.
We clawed back some pride with well worked scores of our own from Selwyn and Chennells but the damage had been done. A couple more dubiously awarded tries compiled the misery and a final score of 58-12.
This was a stark reminder to us all that this is a tough league. We have enjoyed a fantastic start to the season but last week's game brought us back down to reality - we will not have everything our own way this year.
From a personal point of view, I was disappointed with the game. I struggled to make my presence. With the scrum going backwards, the ball didn’t come to the back cleanly, if at all. On the few times I did manage to break off, I was either too isolated or did not look after the ball well enough. Also, I still haven’t crossed the whitewash this season so I am well down on my pre-season targets already.
This week, we are away at Staines, which will be another tough physical battle. Staines have had a few questionable results already this season, but we’re not taking anything for granted. One of their leading sponsors is Maximuscle, so we know they will be big and strong. They have a rock solid scrum and their backs run good hard lines – I remember the harsh beating we took there last year.
However, we still have the confidence to chalk off last week to experience. We will focus on our game and are abilities, rather than giving too much respect to the opposition. This week we have experimented with new moves and worked tirelessly on the scrum.
Coach Lamden has asked for an upfront, physical performance. Fight fire with fire…and points. Lots of points. And if it is points he wants, it is points he shall have!