By David Haigh
After falling behind three times, Canterbury came up with a winning try six minutes from the end to beat derby opponents Westcombe Park 25-19 in National League 2 East.
In testing weather conditions the quality of the rugby was a tribute to both sides but it was the performance of the city club's pack in the second half that gave them a crucial edge.
"It was a tough win but that is what derby games and league rugby are all about," was coach Matt Corker’s verdict.
The home side’s domination of the set scrums at times put Combe under huge pressure and although it did not produce the points it should have, it was key to the territorial battle.
Combe took an early lead after Canterbury failed to find touch with a clearance kick and they made the most of possession. Centre Tom Vickers dummied his way through a defence short on numbers and Nathan Wyman converted.
Canterbury, battling into the wind, kept losing the slippery ball in contact but drew level after 21 minutes. A lineout drive and plenty of pick and go put skipper Jamie Stephens over between the posts, leaving Frank Reynolds an easy conversion.
However they soon found themselves behind again, conceding a penalty at the breakdown which gave Westcombe the opportunity to drive Sam Fombo across for the try, Wyman again accurate from the tee.
In the final minute of the half a Reynolds penalty goal cut the deficit to four points and after the break the city club started to fire the shots.
Four minutes in, Stephens blasted over again from short range, Reynolds was on target and the lead recaptured.
In the 20 minutes that followed, it was Canterbury who were dominant but some fine defence kept them pointless. How costly that might have been was apparent when Combe seized on a dropped ball, wing Kieran Thompson hacked upfield and only a brave effort from Will Waddington prevented a score. But the scrum five metres out went to Combe and No.8 Nick Cook found a blindside gap to put his team two points in front.
Canterbury soon reapplied the pressure and a yellow card for former player Kyan Braithwaite saw a Reynolds penalty win back the narrowest of leads and that rampant pack then produced an impressive and important score.
A huge driving maul which motored 20m ended with prop Cameron Macmillan making the touchdown.
Seventh-placed Canterbury visit bottom-of-the-table North Walsham on Saturday.
Canterbury: Waddington, Jones, Morgan (Orris), Best, Moss, Reynolds, Williams, (Cooper), Young (Macmillan), Morris (E.O'Donoghue), Herriott, Irvine (Rogers), Kerry, Stephens, Murray, Oliver.