County Championship for Kent Senior men progressing as hoped.

Kent 34 Cornwall 33

A compelling encounter at Charlton Park RFC, and the narrowest of victories to follow-up the two-point win in Hampshire a week earlier, but enough for Kent to put one foot tentatively in the final of the 2024 Bill Beaumont Men’s County Championship at Twickenham on 15th June and defend their crown.

Against the county who have appeared in seven of the nine most recent finals (including four wins) and who were keen to avenge the defeat at Camborne last season, Kent opened up a ten-point lead, until indiscipline struck, leaving them depleted in number and opening the door for the visitors.

Ironically though, in a seemingly never-ending final play, with Cornwall going through numerous phases, Kent, with only 13-men on the field, held their composure until it was the visitors who infringed, and Mark Cooke could launch the ball skyward towards Shooters Hill for the final whistle.

‘I felt at 17-7 we were in control, and maybe if we’d kept 15 on the field we would have pushed on,’ said head coach and second-row Tom Stradwick.

‘Cornwall though are a top side and playing 50 minutes with 14-men, and at times 13 with three second half yellow cards, put huge pressure on ourselves.’

‘However, we said at half-time everyone had to give an extra 10%, and the work-rate and discipline, particularly in that last play when we were in our twenty-two, knowing a penalty would lose the game, was massive and I’m immensely proud of the boys.’

Cornwall got the better start.  Play moving infield off lineout ball saw centre Josh Semmens crash over, Rams fly-half Fraser Honey adding the first of four successful conversions, but Kent were soon on the scoreboard through the immaculate boot of Bryan Hotston following a high tackle.

Although the Cornish pack repelled a drive on twelve minutes, George Daly, marshalling expertly at scrum-half, moved ball blind for Andy Denham to score, and great interplay between Leo Fielding and Cooke, including a reverse pass from the latter, found the wing cutting a fine angle for his second try.

Denham may have claimed a hat-trick, but for a pass not going to hand, and other opportunities came and went, but Ollie Walliker’s dismissal on 33 minutes for retaliation put the hosts on the back-foot, and as Cornwall opted for the scrum from a penalty under the posts, Camborne back-row Adam Hughes was worked over, narrowing the score to 17-14 at the interval.

Hotston’s second penalty and an interception try for Fielding, put Kent back in charge, but the one-man advantage would start to count, and on 57 minutes the Duchy’s captain and hooker Ben Priddey drove across from lineout.

Ben Charnock became the first yellow card victim on the hour, and as Cornwall stretched the depleted defence, Semmens went over for his second try, Honey’s only blemish of the match leaving the visitors one-point short at 27-26.

Spurning a potential three points, Kent opted to keep the pressure on by kicking to the corner, and although the lineout went wrong, the Cornish defence allowed ball to fall loose for Barney Stone to slice through the cover, the Sevenoaks centre sending Archie Holland charging under the posts for a crucial eight-point lead.

Fielding was temporarily dismissed for a deliberate knock-on, and Cornwall again used the numerical superiority to create the overlap for Priddey to claim his second try, Honey adding an excellent conversion from out wide, and lifting the crowd of whom the vast majority wore the black and gold of the Duchy.

However, despite a third yellow card for Elliot Roofe, the thin blue line of Kent dug deep and held firm for the remaining minutes. 

‘We’ve some fantastic individual players, and there were some great moments in the game,’ continued Stradwick.

‘Leo Fielding in particular was outstanding, setting things up, making line breaks, and his interception try was a huge moment in the game.’

‘However, as big as today was, we mustn’t get ahead of ourselves.  We need to continue gelling as a team and put in a performance against Surrey next week to make sure we get to Twickenham.’ 

Kent v Surrey next Saturday is the final pool match and is at the same venue at Broad Walk, with a 3.00 pm kick off.


Tries:   Denham 12, 20, Fielding 49, Holland 67

Conv:  Hotston 12, 20, 49, 67

Pens:   Hotston 5, 41


Tries:   Semmens 3, 62, Hughes 38, Priddey 57, 76

Conv:  Honey 3, 38, 57, 76

Photos courtesy of Andrew Wansbury