Kent outclassed in campaign opener
A disappointing opening to Kent’s 2017 Bill Beaumont Cup campaign as the county side succumbed to a more physical and far better drilled Hertfordshire team.
Despite enjoying a numerical advantage for nearly an hour of the contest at Well Hall, the hosts failed to break through an organised defence until the dying moments when it was too late, while in attack Hertfordshire, led ironically by James Shanahan who will take charge at Blackheath’s home ground in a couple of months, struck to devastating effect to leave Kent chasing the game from the early stages.
Only six minutes had passed before Herts got off the mark. The visitors messed up two early line-outs, but a third saw a useful drive from the Herts pack before play swept across field and Ali Crossdale came up from full-back to send Tom Banks across in the right corner.
It was in the 16th minute that referee Gareth Holsgrove produced the red card for Stefan Liebenberg for his punch to opposite scrum-half Charlie Edwards, who earned a yellow for his part in the mêlée on the touchline that upended Kent’s unfortunate head coach John Gallagher. But it did little to alter the pattern of play, and while two Kent attacks ended in the concession of penalties in opposition territory, the excellent Crossdale simply weaved a line from his own half of the field through a static defence for an outstanding solo effort and, with Banks converting, a 12-0 lead at the break.
The introduction of Sidcup’s Sam Carmen at tight-head steadied the Kent scrum, and early pressure after the re-start briefly suggested a way back for the hosts, but poor handling, allied to further indiscipline, continued to blight their cause. Instead, a solid Herts scrum in the 55th minute sent fly-half Zac Vinnicombe on a break deep into opposition territory and Shanahan sent Crossdale across to complete a move straight off the Old Albanian training ground.
However, a fine try-saving tackle from Canterbury’s JJ Murray denied Hertfordshire a further score, and instead of the visitors claiming the additional bonus point, it was Kent who would somehow manage to salvage reward which may prove crucial in weeks to come.
As Herts prop Karl Garside was dismissed for ten minutes for getting on the wrong side, Kent were at last able to break through the now thirteen-man defence for skipper and blind-side Tom Stradwick to reach out across the goal-line.
And as the game moved into its final play, great work from the hitherto underused Dan Hamilton, the Blackheath wing muscling his way through a tiring midfield, sent Canterbury loose-head Aaron Cooper over, giving the final score a respectability that had looked unlikely five minutes earlier.
Next Saturday Kent travel to Dorking RFC to take on Surrey. Kick-off at the Big Field at Brockham is at 3.00 pm.
Tries: Stradwick 75, Cooper 80
Conv: Reynolds 75
Tries: Banks 6, Crossdale 20, 55
Conv: Banks 20, 55