Kent will play Lancashire in the Bill Beaumont Division 1 Final at Twickenham tomorrow, after the county side, which included Blackheath’s Tom Stradwick, Alex Witchell, Jake Hennessey and George Daly, defeated current champions Cornwall 34-31 in Camborne at the weekend.
It will be the first time Kent have reached the final of the top tier of rugby union’s County Championship since 1986.
The County Championship is England’s oldest domestic competition, having been inaugurated in 1889, and restructured into three divisions in 2007. This will be its 121st year, with Lancashire claiming the most titles with 25, while Kent have won it just three times, the last way back in 1927.
Kent’s journey to the final, which has also seen Archie Holland and Andy Denham involved, started at Medway RFC on 6th May, when they came back from a 15-3 deficit with 17 unanswered points to take victory against Hampshire.
A week later they outscored Somerset six tries to one, also at Priestfields, for a resounding 43-7 win to set up what effectively meant a semi-final against Cornwall.
Along with Lancashire, Cornwall have dominated the competition in recent times, and were looking for an eighth final appearance in nine years.
However, in a pulsating game, which saw the lead change hands no fewer than five times, Kent stunned a partisan and passionate Cornish crowd of well over two thousand to claim an historic win, with tries from Toby Wallace, Rafael Dutta, Alfie Orris and Jake Hennessey, Sam Evans adding 14-points in a faultless kicking display.
‘We are delighted to have made the County final and look forward to playing against Lancashire at Twickenham with relish’, said Kent Director of Rugby Taff Gwilliam. ‘It will be a great experience for everyone involved with the squad.’
‘To have travelled to the reigning champions Cornwall, and beaten them in their own backyard is a massively significant achievement for Kent. I don’t think we have ever won away to Cornwall, it is an endorsement of what we have been developing within our County.’
‘With our women winning two from three this season, the under 20s making the national final last year and remaining unbeaten this year, Kent Rugby is in a healthy position.’
‘The committee and coaches are pushing in the same direction. We have an excellent crop of players in the seniors, coached well by young coaches in Tom Stradwick, David Marshall and Mike Melford.’
‘The players are loving the positive environment, and enjoying their rugby.’
‘Sunday will be a great day, and we will enjoy the experience.’
The match at Twickenham tomorrow is a 4 pm kick off, and will follow the Barbarians v World 15 game (KO 2 pm).
Tickets are priced at £25 adults and £15 children under 16.
15 Bryan Hotston (Tonbridge Juddians), 14 Toby Wallace (Westcombe Park), 13 KK Oeraliji (Westcombe Park), 12 Matt Harrison (Westcombe Park), 11 Alfie Orris (Medway), 10 Sam Evans (Tonbridge Juddians), 9 Tom Williams (Canterbury), 1 Luke Boon (Tonbridge Juddians), 2 Ryan Jackson (Bishop’s Stortford), 3 Reece Conlon (Tonbridge Juddians), 4 Tom Stradwick (Blackheath), 5 Dave Irvine (Canterbury), 6 Rafael Dutta (Westcombe Park), 7 Harvey Furneaux (Canterbury), 8 Jamie Stephens (Canterbury) – Captain
Replacements: 16 Alex Witchell (Blackheath), 17 Danny Herriott (Canterbury), 18 Mo Pangarker (Medway) 19 Jesse Liston (Eton Manor), 20 Nick Cook (Westcombe Park), 21 Jake Buckley (Westcombe Park), 22 Lewis Hollidge (Canterbury)
15 Jacob Browne (Preston Grasshoppers), 14 Rhys Henderson (Sedgley Park), 13 Connor Wilkinson (Fylde), 12 Sam Russell (Blackburn), 11 Greg Smith (Fylde), 10 Greg Smith (Fylde), 9 Jacob Tansey (Sedgley Park), 1 Dan Birchall (Sale FC) – Captain, 2 Ben Gregory (Fylde), 3 Dan Tylance (Rotherham), 4 Bob Birtwell (Sedgley Park), 5 Olli Parkinson (Fylde), 6 Toby Harrison (Fylde), 7 Andy Hughes (Sale FC), 8 David Fairbrother (Fylde)
Replacements: 16 Ollie Trippier (Preston Grasshoppers), 17 Corey Bowker (Fylde), 18 Oscar Crowe (Sedgley Park), 19 Valu Tane Bentley (Sedgley Park), 20 Henry Higginson (Fylde), 21 Will Hunt (Preston Grasshoppers), 22 Scott Rawlings (Fylde)