Kent U18 Girls v Hampshire, Sunday 14 January 2024
The final county fixture of the 2023-24 season took place on Sunday 14 January, as Kent and Hampshire blew off the Christmas cobwebs in a highly physical encounter.
Kent’s young squad made the journey to Petersfield RFC on a beautiful but chilly Sunday afternoon. The hosts, winning the coin toss, sensibly opted to let their opponents play towards the bright January sun, hanging low in the sky. Kent got the match underway with the kick off and were immediately faced with the physicality and strength of Hampshire, with the home side firing on all cylinders from the off and a strong set of carries saw them cross the tryline within three minutes, the extras falling short.
A clever restart kick and regather saw Kent make their first foray into the Hampshire 22, but the hosts’ speed at the breakdown won them the turnover, and they made good ground with the resulting penalty. Kent formed a good defensive effort and held up the ball over the line, as they would on several occasions throughout the match, but the pressure shortly won out and Hampshire scored, the conversion made easier by the proximity to the posts.
Kent applied some good pressure themselves from the restart, and soon found themselves hammering the Hampshire tryline. A score here would have changed the tenor of the match, but a touch of white-line-fever saw the opportunity lost, with Hampshire clearing their lines and after some fast hands, their winger found the edge of the Kent defence and ran the length of the pitch to score again.
The physicality of the game showed no letting up. Kent made tackle after tackle, fought at every scrum and put together their backline moves when given the opportunity to attack, but found themselves thwarted each time. By the time the referee blew for the end of the first half, Kent were six tries down on the scoreboard.
Battered and bruised, but not broken, the Kent girls regrouped at half time and the second half started in a lively fashion, gathering the restart kick and surprising their opponents with a grubber through their defence, surged downfield but then sadly lost the ball to a knock on just within the 22. Hampshire went back on the attack and were soon attacking Kent’s try line again. A bold turnover on the line from co-captain Scarlett Lygo briefly saved Kent from conceding, but a fumble in the in-goal area saw the visitors again cede possession and after a few phases Hampshire were able to work the ball out wide for their first score of the second half.
Faced with this kind of scoreline, teams can often falter, but it is a real testament to the Kent girls and the attitude across the squad that their heads never dropped. Their defence remained fearless, making tackle after tackle against a physically imposing side, right through to the last. Hampshire worked hard for their three additional tries in the second half, and Kent were unfortunate to have no points to show for their determination and the opportunities they created. The final score was 58-0 to Hampshire.
While not the scoreline we’d have liked for our final run-out, from a coaching perspective, the progress the players had made across the four sessions and three playing opportunities was immense, and we could not be prouder of the efforts of our Kent girls. We wish the very best to our Year 13 players who leave us and hope they continue to enjoy and excel in their rugby through their playing careers. The vast majority of our squad have a further year of U18s rugby and we look forward to working with them next season.
The final County event is the inaugural ‘Tracy Pettingale Cup’, East v West Kent game, taking place on Friday 23 February, where we’ll see the whole Kent squad runout for an evening of quality rugby. See you there!