Kent 31 Yorkshire 30

Report by Graham Cox, photos by Claire Jeffrey

Twickenham Stadium

The slenderest of margins, but a victory that gives Kent their second Bill Beaumont County Championship title in as many seasons, the first time they’ve ever retained the crown, and their fifth success since the oldest domestic competition in rugby union began in 1889.

It was tight throughout, the lead changing hands on no fewer than eight occasions, and the difference between the sides only ever moving beyond a converted score during a five-minute spell during the third quarter.

However, it was on 64 minutes, shortly after Sam Evans had put Kent ahead once more with his fourth penalty when the decisive moment came.

With a further three points on offer, Ben Fryatt opted for the quick-tap and, catching Yorkshire off guard, found Leo Fielding who, in turn, off-loaded to Gary Jones for the Canterbury wing’s second try and a six-point lead.

Yorkshire struck back by dominating the closing stages, and with two sin-binnings reducing Kent to 13-men for most of the final ten minutes, great handling and a lovely inside ball from wing Pete Hudson saw Leeds Tykes’ centre Henry McNab slip over to the left of the uprights.

However, Lewis Minikin missed the conversion, and when Kent went through numerous phases in an attempt to close out the game, and were penalised for holding-on with seconds remaining, the Hull Ionians’ centre, who’d kicked a couple of beauties earlier on, saw his strike at goal slide across the face of the uprights and wide.

Yorkshire had had the better of the opening period, with two tries from Sam Taylor giving them a 15-9 lead at the interval.

Sam Evans had struck the first of four penalties for an early Kent lead, but the Yorkshiremen’s assault saw fly-half Eddie Crossland launch a perfectly judged cross field kick for the right-wing to take on the full and flop over the line.

Kent were unfortunate not to claim a try after Charlie Self showed great strength to barge a way to the goal-line, and replays showed Archie Holland looked to have grounded, but Evans’ second strike restored Kent’s advantage, and the Tonbridge Juddian fly-half’s third cancelled out a Minikin effort on 38 minutes.

However, Yorkshire struck back immediately as full-back Harrison Ashley broke down the right flank, and as the ball moved ball across field, Hudson sent Taylor across in the left corner, Minikin’s touchline conversion giving the northerners their six-point cushion.

The red card for Crossland on 43 minutes for a head-high challenge looked harsh, but Kent took full advantage of the extra man to regain a lead they only relinquished briefly during the entirety of the second half.

Andrew Denham, who’d switched from wing to the back-row after Ben Charnock was injured, drove over, after Kent nibbled around the fringes from lineout ball, and following some fine handling, Jones showed a wonderful step to bamboozle four defenders to score, Evans adding both conversions from out wide.

Yorkshire picked and drove for Rotherham prop Loma Kivalu to bash his way over for a converted try to bring Yorkshire back within a point, and Minikin struck a penalty from 45-metres briefly for the lead, before Evans responded after a scrum infringement, and Jones got his second score.

The dramatic final minutes saw a determined fightback from the Yorkshiremen, and had McNab been able to run behind the uprights with his late try, Kent’s resilience would have been to no avail.

But Fergus Chawner’s desperate tap-tackle was just enough to knock the centre off balance and he fell to ground out wide.

‘Those fine margins tell you how competitive county rugby is,’ said the Kent skipper and back-row Rafael Dutta.  ‘All you can do is stick to your structure and understanding to get you through.’

‘Hampshire and Cornwall took us to the wire, and you saw again today with Yorkshire, even after their red card, they kept playing and credit goes to them for making it such a worthwhile game to watch and be part of.’

‘Sam Evans was brilliant, Cam Murray and Barney Stone had great games, but to be honest it would be a disservice not to say that everyone, from one to twenty-two plus the traveling reserves, had a job to do and make it what it was today.’

‘We’re a massive county with loads of great teams and it shows what you can do with a proper plan and when you get everyone to buy in to it.’


Tries:  Denham 47, Jones 50, 64

Conv:  Evans 47, 50

Pens:   Evans 4, 14, 38



Tries:   Taylor 8, 39, Kivalu 55, McNab 77

Conv:  Minikin 39, 55

Pens:   Minikin 32, 58


To hear Coxy’s post match interview with Rafael Dutta, head over to our YouTube channel.