Sunday 17 December saw Kent Under 18 Girls travel down to Eastbourne RFC for the second County fixture of the season, this time against Sussex. By some miracle, the sun was shining (of sorts) for the warm up, although it was definitely not beach weather. Fielding a heavily rotated team from the last match’s nail-biting draw against Essex, Kent’s youthful squad were excited for the challenge ahead.
From the referee’s whistle, Sussex showed early dominance, quickly making their way into the Kent half and exerting pressure. A five-metre scrum to Kent was lost against the head and from that platform, Sussex began their attack. Forced into a tryline defence early, Kent pushed their opponents back to the 22, before a slight fumble by Kent at the breakdown saw Sussex recover their composure and cross the line out wide for their first score of the game, the kick falling short. With the momentum behind them, another try followed on the opposite wing, the kicker’s attempt at the conversion just bouncing off the post – 10-0 to the home side.
Kent has a fantastic diversity of clubs offering girls rugby and that was on show today, with 15 (count ‘em) clubs represented in the matchday squad of 21 players. The challenge of bringing together players from so many teams did show, however, with Kent taking some time to really hit their stride and get the combinations working. Sussex showed impressive structure in both attack and defence, with some strong ball carriers and an excellent kicker. Kent tried to work some moves, but Sussex were strong at the breakdown, and within 20 minutes two additional tries had been scored by the hosts, one converted.
Kent kept their heads up, and a clever hack through of the ball saw them reach the Sussex 22 for the first time in the game so far. Unable to convert the position into points, the two sides continued their battle until just before the whistle when Sussex ran over another score, converted, to bring the halftime score to 29-0.
After a half time pep talk, and a few changes made, Kent took to the field again with the mission to win the second half. The girls used that fire and determination to put pressure on Sussex, forcing the home side into multiple penalties and then a yellow card from the referee. Making the most of the player advantage, second row Scarlett Lygo powered over for Kent’s first score of the match, the conversion attempt from Ruby Marshall not quite going the distance. Sussex answered back with a try of their own a few minutes later.
An attacking scrum just outside the Sussex 22 gave Kent a great scoring opportunity, where a blindside move by fly half Ella Preston finding winger Leah Hickmott who tore down the left wing to score in the corner, despite the best attempts of the covering tackler. The extras fell short, but Kent were pleased to have two scores on the board. Sussex did not want to let Kent take the second half, and kept their structure to work the ball wide and run in a couple of tries of their own, bringing it to three tries to two in favour of the home side. Kent’s determination did not falter, however, and after a second yellow card to Sussex for a high tackle, it was flying winger Hickmott who stepped up to score a third try for the team in navy blue, with Marshall’s kick sailing over the posts to take the final score of the match to 44-17.
Congratulations to Sussex for an exciting game, and we wish them the best of luck for the rest of their season. The coaches were really pleased with the work rate, tenacity and positive attitude of the Kent girls, which bodes well for our next test, away to Hampshire on Sunday 14 January 2024.
Kent U18 Boys
The Kent U18 Boys travelled to Shelford RFC for their second match of the season against Essex, match report to come but after a promising start lost 15-21 to Essex.