Kent 29 Devon 8
Blackheath’s Tom Stradwick will lead Kent out at Twickenham next Sunday after the county side’s dominant set-scrum gave them victory against Devon to top the South Pool and give them a place in the final of the 2016 County Championship Plate.
Going into the match needing the four try bonus, while at the same time denying their opposition any reward, looked a tall order against a Devon side who’d scored 89 points in their two previous matches, but such was the demolition process carried out on the Devonian pack by a front-row led by the outstanding Jimmy Green at tight-head, and Terry Read and Nick Porter on the tight side, that Kent had accumulated three of their required scores by the interval.
Having been initially turned over on their own put-in five meters from their goal line, Devon were penalised twice before, on the next set-piece, referee Mr Clarkson awarded a penalty try, and although Exmouth fly-half George Meadows responded with three points for the visitors, a further scrum infringement close to half-way saw skipper Tom Stradwick take a quick tap, launching the move which ended with Charlie Edwards crossing for a second score.
Two breaks from JJ Murray kept Kent on the attack, before quick ball off the base of a scrum created the overlap for Aidan Moss to cross, giving the hosts a 19-3 lead at the break.
Despite turning around with the wind, which blew light rain down the Priestfields Recreation Ground slope for much of the contest, at their backs, Kent began the second period untidily, a couple of kicks going long and enabling Devon to build some phases. However, as visitors lost possession in midfield, Moss picked up the loose ball to break away for his second try and within seven minutes of the re-start Kent had he crucial fourth try, and a 26-3 lead, to give them one foot in the final.
But they still had to win, and by more than seven points, and Devon had travelled a long way to make that a mere formality. As pressure was mounted under the Kent uprights, the ball was moved wide for right-wing Tom Goodman to cross in space and, despite the loss of a second man to the sin-bin, by successfully moving the ball quickly from the base the scrum, the south-west side pressed hard for the two further scores they required to get within range,
Nevertheless, helped by with a couple of turnovers from Rob White, the Kent defence held the out, and a late Freddie Gabbitass penalty, adding to the fly-halves three successful conversions, eased the hosts to their victory.
‘The disappointment of last Saturday at Taunton gave us an extra intensity in training this week,’ said head coach John Gallagher. ‘In the first period we came out firing and executed our plans perfectly, and although we lost a little focus after the break, we did enough to get us through.’
‘But the job’s only half done. We now need to prepare ourselves for Twickenham because if we don’t succeed there this is all for nothing.’
Kent will meet East Midlands on the Plate final. The match is a 10 am kick-off at Twickenham on Sunday 29th May and precedes the England v Wales international later in the day.
Tries: Penalty try 10, Edwards 22, Moss 38, 47
Conv: Gabbitass 10, 22, 47
Pens: Gabbitass 80
Tries: Goodwin 52
Pens: Meadows 14
15 Aiden Moss – Westcombe Park
14 Kwaku Asiedu – Canterbury
13 Harry Sayers – Canterbury
12 John McMahon – Tonbridge Juddian
11 Dan Hamilton – Blackheath
10 Freddie Gabbitass – Blackheath
9 Charlie Edwards – Old Elthamians
1 Jim Green – Canterbury
2 Joe Bonner – Westcombe Park
3 Terry Read – Blackheath
4 Tom Scorgie – Old Elthamian
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 Josh Hawkins – Blackheath
19 Sean English – Blackheath
20 Jack Walsh – Blackheath
21 JJ Murray – Tonbridge Juddian
22 Rob White – Old Elthamian