Guildford travelled down to Tunbridge Wells on Saturday in need of a win after two losses to start the year and came away with a morale-boosting win 12-29, with one of their best displays of the season in both attack and defence.
Guildford selected a mostly settled pack with Nick Brown returning to the second row after a week out. In the backs, Tom Jeffery returned to the wing after a hamstring injury kept him out for a number of weeks and player/coach Peter Hodgkinson started in the fly half shirt.
Guildford started brightly and showed real endeavour early on, a set of phases highlighted by a Hodgkinson break, a deft one-handed offload from skipper Joe Garner finally saw a scrum half Bradley Smith dart through a gap in the defence from a few yards out to open the scoring. Full back Kyle Brown converted. Guildford cleared from the restart and subsequently pushed Tunbridge Wells deep in their 22 with a clever cross-kick from Hodgkinson and a good chase from Jeffery, testing his newly healed hamstring. Guilford won the lineout and when the home side infringed to stop a driving maul, the visitors kicked to the corner again. This time there was no stopping Guildford’s well-drilled forwards. Harry Phillips hit his jumper and after a couple of short drives, veteran Bill Mairs dived over for their second score, to the protestations of the home team.
Guilford defended the lead until late in the half, marked by some excellent line speed and tackling. When Tunbridge were able to exert some pressure with successive scrums under the posts however, they eventually made a blindside overlap tell and scored in the corner to make it 7-12 at half time.
Although pleased with the performance, Guildford ran out in the second half to play uphill – and mindful that at the tail end of last season they had surrendered a larger lead against this opposition at the same venue.
At the start of the half Tunbridge Wells were let down by their discipline, which earned them a pair of yellow cards, temporarily reducing them to 13. When Hodgkinson drilled the resulting penalty deep into the opposition 22, the driving maul was executed to script and Nick Brown scored close to the posts for an unconverted try and a 7-17 lead.
Back at full strength, Tunbridge Wells played some entertaining rugby, putting the ball through the hands for multiple phases with Guildford working hard in defence. Eventually, Tunbridge created the overlap, with their left-winger going over out wide for an unconverted try 12-17 and at this point, the game was very much in the balance.
From the restart the home side failed to clear their lines and after Guildford gathered the ball, Hodgkinson arced through the defensive line then glided 40 yards across the field for a fantastic solo try, 12-22. Minutes later, Guildford followed up with another superb score, Hodgkinson shaping to go wide then timing a lovely short pass to Jeffery coming off his wing on the half way line to put him through a gap. With plenty of work to do but aided by shovel like hands to swat away defenders, Jeffery made the try line with a powerful run, leaving a number of bodies scattered in his wake to secure the bonus point. Kyle Brown added the extras and when the whistle blew, Guildford took the honours 12-27 in a hard fought and evenly contested match.
The 5 league points in an away fixture were a welcome reward after a barren spell for Guildford, although it came at a cost, with skipper Garner fracturing a bone in his elbow and Courtney Raymond sustaining a concussion. Guildford will look to build on this win against bottom club Shelford at their Broadwater home this coming Saturday and generate some momentum for the remainder of the season.