National 2 South
Tonbridge Juddians 26, Taunton Titans 20

TAUNTON Titans suffered their third loss in a row and five defeats out of their last six games, as they let the win slip through their fingers in the last play of the game at Tonbridge Juddians, writes Keith Brooking.

On another cold afternoon, the visitors were their own worst enemy by making simple mistakes and giving the ball away too easily.

The first quarter was spent mainly in the Titans' half, but it was the away side that scored first through the boot of fly-half Toby East, as he kicked a penalty in the 18th minute.

The Titans then extended their lead as scum-half Lewis Webb was on the end of a great break by Jack Claydon - who is getting back to his best after his long layoff - to run the ball in on 22 minutes.

East added the conversion to give his side a 10-point lead, and they seemed in control.

Juddians tried to make inroads towards the Titans' line, but the defence held firm and the hosts were reduced to playing from deep.

Yet the visitors were now starting to give up possession with silly mistakes, offloads that weren’t needed and unforced errors.

From one of these errors Tonbridge earned a scrum just inside their own half, and this time a defensive mistake allowed the hosts a clean break off the first phase, allowing them to score a 37th-minute try in the corner through full-back Finlay Coxon-Smith.

With fly-half Liam Prescott adding the conversion, the away side's lead was down to 10-7 at half time.

The Titans started the second period well, as full-back Sam Brown - who had another fine game in only his second outing for the team - scored a superb individual try after chipping over the defence and regathering to score in the 43rd minute.

But the home side kept on attacking and Taunton were giving them more and more chances as they failed to control the ball and territory, and it wasn’t long until the home side capitalised with a try for Reid Alexander on 54 minutes to close the gap to just three points again, at 15-12.

With time running out, both teams tried to create the winning score, but once again the Titans gave up possession and the hosts rumbled towards the posts, scoring their third try through winger George Lawson.

Prescott converted to give Tonbridge the lead for the first time, 19-15, with just six minutes to go. 

From the kick-off, Juddians cleared their lines, which gave the Titans the chance they needed, and speedster Aron Struminski didn’t need a second invite to race to the line, leaving the defence in his wake, to score in the corner and give the visitors a 20-19 point lead with just four minutes left.

The Titans managed to hold on to the kick-off, but then messed up the lineout, slapping the ball back so the only option was to clear the ball.

Tonbridge now made their way purposefully toward the Taunton line, and after a concerted effort they made it over but were held up.

With only enough time on the clock for the scrum the Titans tried to push them off the ball, but it was shipped wide after a couple of phases and hooker Ryan Jackson went over in the corner.

Prescott rubbed salt into the Titans' wounds with a conversion out wide to give the home side a deserved 26-20 victory and the full five points.

At the halfway point in the season, the Titans have 10 wins, but only one of those have come from their last six matches.

If you look at the way the Titans were playing in September and October - winning nine in a row - they are long way away from those performances now.

Perhaps the players thought after their nine straight wins, some great performances and excellent team tries, that they were better than they were and knew all they needed to know. 

What these last six weeks have proved is that if you do not put turn up and perform each week at this level you will come unstuck, and if you do not look after the ball the opposition will punish you.

The players will need to try and find that earlier form next weekend, when they host Old Redcliffians, who will be relishing the chance to claim their second win of the season - which on current form would not be a shock result. 

Taunton Titans: Brown (Rice 66), Struminski, Mason (c), Fraser, Claydon, East, Webb, Kenny (Baker 55), Hamilton (Davis 55), Dalton, Harvey, Persey, Davis (Fleming 50), Vakalutukali, Oliphant-Thompson (Prior 50). Replacement not used: England.