Stradders late charge leads Kent to a first

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Surrey 17 Kent 18

A magnificent forward effort, particularly in the front-row from Canterbury’s Aaron Cooper and Sidcup’s Sam Carmen, at loose and tight-head respectively, saw Kent ultimately overturn what, at one stage, was a nine point lead to take victory by the slenderest of margins and achieve a first success at the top tier of the re-vamped County Championship.

Attacking up the slope towards Box Hill, which towers above the northern end of The Big Field, home of Dorking RFC, Surrey dominated possession and territory in the opening period, efficiently striking twice to put themselves into the ascendancy. But despite having the gradient in their favour, the host county were unable to hold on to their lead after the interval, meaning that for the second week running they’d surrendered a significant edge at the halfway point.

In fact it was Surrey who struck the first major blow up front, their Esher-dominated front-row scoring a strike against the head shortly after Frank Reynolds had given
Kent a brief lead with three points, but the next scrum saw the visitors win a penalty to gain field position.

However, as they were guilty of too often, ball was spilt forward, and as Surrey broke away, Worthing wing Kariym Irving collected his own perfectly weighted chip to score under the posts. Despite some good defensive work at the maul, Surrey continued to keep play in opposition territory, pressure creating space out wide for Wimbledon’s Josh Charles to cross on the opposite wing and although Reynolds added another penalty for the visitors, the hosts ended the first period 12-6 ahead.

Handling errors hindered both sides early in the second period, but Kent’s line-out had worked well in the opening session with Joe Bonner throwing-in, and continued to do so as Harry Fry replaced the Westcombe Park man, the Blackheath hooker driving over from close-range in the 54th minute, reducing the arrears to just one point.

However, as Surrey moved scrum ball across field on 67 minutes, Irving restored the six-point gap by powering across for his second try, and had the final pass reached the 6′ 7″ wing moments later, a hat-trick would have been secured and with it an unassailable lead.

Instead, JJ Murray’s interception proved crucial, enabling Kent to up the tempo and attack with pace, and as the Surrey defence tried to recover, Tom Stradwick, who’d led his side so expertly from the number-eight position, muscled his way over from 20-metres for the try which, with Reynolds adding the conversion, put the visitors ahead with eight minutes remaining.

They might have secured their position further had Cooper hung on to the ball as he went for the goal-line after Reion Raybe’s late run, but the Kent and Charlton Park wing had at least ensured that to hit back Surrey would have to break from deep, an opportunity they were to be denied.

Next Saturday, Kent play their third and final pool match as they travel to Barnstaple RFC to take on Devon. Kick-off at Pottington Road is at 3.00 pm.

Surrey

Tries: Irving 18, 67, Charles 29
Conv: Noble 18

Kent

Tries: Fry 54, Stradwick 72
Conv: Reynolds 72
Pens: Reynolds 9, 34

Graham Cox

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