Photos by Rory Milner
The rugby authorities will be, secretly, delighted with Cornwall’s winning start towards yet another Twickenham final, given the support for county rugby in the Duchy (though whether it’s enough for the climax of the Bill Beaumont Championship to continue being played at HQ remains to be seen!), and there were a goodly number dressed in black and gold who made the long journey to a newly-refurbished Priestfields Recreation Ground, home of Medway RFC.
Possibly it was the passion and desire of a rugby loving county that saw them through this tightly fought game, but Kent will be left kicking themselves and knowing that they had left a gilt-edged opportunity to cause something of an upset slip from their grasp.
However, it was the visitors who struck first. Playing into a vicious wind coming off the Thames Estuary, a series of early penalties brought the Cornishmen within range, before Redruth open-side Sam Stevens was driven across from line-out ball for the first try on six minutes, fly-half Frazer Honey adding the conversion.
Kent’s early forays into opposition territory broke down with handling errors, and the stiff breeze took two kicks forward beyond the dead ball line, but one area in which the home county remained dominant was the scrum, and in the 17th minute, ball was moved inside off the set-piece for open-side Freddie Owen to pile across.
Frank Reynolds’ conversion levelled the score, but the remainder of the period was punctuated by frequent stoppages, the only scoring chance coming on the stroke of half-time as Owen just failed to grasp an awkward bounce after ball kicked through following left-wing Kwaku Asiedu’s break.
With the wind behind him, Honey succeeded with a long-range penalty within two minutes of the re-start, but now Kent’s sent-piece came to the fore. Infringements following two quick tap-penalties from scrum-half Charlie Edwards, saw his opposite number, Jack Oulton, head for the sin-bin, and as the host county opted for the scrum, the Cornish eight collapsed to give Kent a 14-10 lead.
Tom Stradwick’s yellow card, for interference at the ruck close to the ten-metre line, looked harsh given the run of play, but it proved the crucial moment. The resultant line-out saw Redruth number-eight Brad Howe driven across to regain the lead for the visitors, and as Kent tried to strike back, and ball was moved across field, Alex Ducker intercepted, the Camborne wing sprinting 70-metres to score the try which, with Honey’s conversion, put the Cornishmen eight points clear.
Jack Daly’s quick-tap sent the impressive Asiedu weaving through for a converted score to close the gap with nine minutes remaining, but Kent’s pack gained scant reward for shoving their counterparts ten metres and Honey’s late penalty used up valuable seconds to see the Cornishmen to victory.
Kent travel to Clifton RFC next Saturday for a tough encounter with Gloucestershire before moving on to Havant RFC to take on Hampshire on 18th May.
Tries: Owen, Penalty try, Asiedu
Tries: Stevens, Howe, Ducker
Conv: Honey 2
Pens: Honey 2
15 Bryan Hotston Old Elthamian
14 Elliot Simmons Blackheath
13 Kieran Moffat Old Elthamian
12 Mark Cooke (Capt) Blackheath
11 Kwaku Asiedu Cambridge
10 Frank Reynolds Tunbridge Wells
9 Charlie Edwards Tonbridge Juddian
1 Tom Williams Blackheath
2 Nathan Morris Old Elthamian
3 Danny Herriott Blackheath
4 Mark Davey Tonbridge Juddian
5 Dave Irvine Tonbridge Juddian
6 Freddie Owen Blackheath
7 Michael Hathaway Tunbridge Wells
8 Tom Stradwick Blackheath
16 Ryan Jackson Tonbridge Juddian
17 Billy Young Blackheath
18 Stefan North Old Elthamian
19 Nathan Thomas Old Elthamian
20 Tom Beaumont Medway
21 Jack Daly Blackheath
22 Alfie Orris Medway