Kent 27 East Midlands 33
Bill Beaumont Cup – Division Two
County Championship Plate Final – Twickenham
A gripping match from start to finish, but ultimately Kent will be left frustrated to have lost a match during which they led for large chunks and played by far the more enterprising rugby.
Four times they crossed the goal-line to give themselves the advantage only to concede a rapid response on each occasion, before the opposition’s forward advantage, allied to one or two errors and perhaps a little misfortune on Kent’s part, steered East Midlands to victory.
The eight points from the boot of Joe Daniel would also prove crucial in the final analysis, and the Kettering right-wing had his side ahead on 15 minutes with a good strike from 35-metres, but it was Kent who came up with the first try. As line-out ball on half-way was swiftly moved along the three-quarter line, Aiden Moss found Harry Sayers with a delightful off-load to send the right-wing across for a score converted by James Cameron.
However, East Midlands had already established a significant edge at the set-scrum and now, as a penalty found touch close to the Kent goal-line, their Ampthill-dominated pack drove skipper and number-eight Ma’ama Molitika across to re-take the lead.
Only briefly though. Cameron nudged his side back in front with three points, and as a further strike from the Westcombe Park fly-half rattled the crossbar, Kent were up quickly in numbers, Tom Stradwick regathering possession for his side to keep the ball alive through numerous phases before Max Cantwell was worked across for their second try.
East Midlands responded again by driving Molitika over in a mirror image of the Ampthill man’s earlier score, but at the interval Kent held a narrow 15-13 advantage.
Kent upped the tempo once more at the start of the second period and were unlucky when referee Adam Leal stopped play for an East Midlands injury as they closed in on the goal-line. But from the resultant scrum Hugh McCormick, who made a number of useful inroads, pierced the defensive line for Terry Read to drive over, and with Cameron’s conversion the lead stretched beyond seven points for the only time in the game.
Again, however, the lead was quickly eroded, and this time in the softest possible fashion, East Midlands’ blind-side Sam Crooks picking up spilt possession at the re-start to romp home, and as Daniel followed up with the conversion and a penalty soon after, the North Pool winners were back in front.
The big screen replay would suggest Dan Hamilton may have been more than a tad unlucky to have been adjudged to have lost the ball forward as he dived for the line after outsprinting the cover on the hour, but the Blackheath wing made no mistake four minutes later after Ben Hough had broken through in midfield, but a penalty conceded almost straight from the re-start for side entry gained field position for East Midlands once again, and as Molitika claimed his hat-trick from line-out ball, the lead changed hands for the sixth and final time.
Kent still had their chances as JJ Murray broke down the right flank and was held a whisker short, and Cameron badly scuffed a long-range penalty attempt, but as a penalty was conceded to hand East Midlands possession and a line-out on half-way, Molitika broke away to set up a score for scrum-half Tom Orton and there was no way back.
‘I thought overall we played the better rugby and we kept taking the initiative only to let them back in’ said Kent skipper and forwards coach Tom Stradwick.
‘Decisions didn’t fall our way with what looked a good try disallowed, and play stopped when we were in a scoring position, but that was a player safety issue and that’s something you can’t argue with.’
‘Despite everything though, I’m proud of our performance today and throughout the competition. The lads gave it everything and you can’t fault that.’
‘The goal now is to keep this squad together and have good crack at getting back here next year when we move up to Division One.’
Tries: Sayers, Cantwell, Read, Hamilton
Conv: Cameron 2
Tries: Molitika 3, Crooks, Orton
Pens: Daniel 3
15 Aiden Moss – Canterbury
14 Harry Sayers – Canterbury
13 JJ Murray – Tonbridge Juddian
12 John McMahon – Tonbridge Juddian
11 Dan Hamilton – Blackheath
10 James Cameron – Westcombe Park
9 Charlie Edwards – Old Elthamians
1 Jim Green – Canterbury
2 Joe Bonner – Westcombe Park
3 Terry Read – Blackheath
4 Luke Bellinger – Westcombe Park
5 Royce Cadman – Canterbury
6 Max Cantwell – Canterbury
7 Hugh McCormick – Old Colfeians
8 Tom Stradwick (Capt) – Blackheath
16 Neil Wakefield – Canterbury
17 Nick Porter – Westcombe Park
18 Tom Scorgie – Old Elthamian
19 Lee Covington – Westcombe Park
20 Sam Eydmann – Blackheath
21 Rob White – Old Elthamian
22 Ben Hough – Old Elthamian