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Canterbury head of rugby Andy Pratt looks back at National 2 promotion play-off win over Chester

Andy Pratt said he always knew Canterbury would have to be patient to prevail in Saturday's National 2 promotion play-off against Chester.

The winner-takes-all contest was in the balance until the hour-mark when JJ Murray's brilliant interception try gave Canterbury the initiative which they did not relinquish.

Chester scored a last-minute try to cut Canterbury's victory margin to 19-10, but there was no denying the hosts were deserving winners.

Canterbury's head of rugby Andy Pratt celebrates the play-off win over Chester with Ricky Mackintosh Picture: Phillipa Hilton
Canterbury's head of rugby Andy Pratt celebrates the play-off win over Chester with Ricky Mackintosh Picture: Phillipa Hilton

They will now play in rugby's third tier – National League 1 – for the first time in their 90-year history.

Head of rugby Pratt said he had expected Chester to be resilient opponents, and was not surprised by how the game panned out.

He said: "It's a play-off game and they can go either way. They can be free-scoring, high scoring affairs or very cagey and I thought it would be the latter.

"The weather conditions probably suited them a little bit. If it had been a hot, dry day as if should be this time of the year it might have been different.

"If we'd have got into our stride early, but they managed to deny that and get a crucial early try. We'd said all week this may take 60 to 70 minutes.

"We talked about that again at half-time, just reminded everyone, we needed to be patient, we were and it got us the win."

Chester led 5-0 until Dan Smart's try right on half-time and Pratt admitted that was a key moment.

He added: "They dominated possession in that first half, kept it very well, and we needed to take more of our opportunities.

Dan Smart spots a gap to score Canterbury's opening try against Chester Picture: Phillipa Hilton
Dan Smart spots a gap to score Canterbury's opening try against Chester Picture: Phillipa Hilton

"We did have a couple prior to our first try so that was very important, that we could go in level pegging or thereabouts.

"I wasn't going to panic, it was a case of us getting into our game which they were denying us, they did very well, but if we could counter that I knew we'd be okay.

"We just needed sustained periods of pressure and we'd get in and that's what we got."

Pratt said he never had any doubts winger Murray would finish his try once he'd made the interception.

He added: "He's a quick lad and I didn't have a lot of doubt unless the hamstring went or something, it was great for him.

"I thought (at 14-5) the next score was going to be crucial and luckily we got that. We did not get the conversion to completely put it to bed but I was a lot happier at that point."

Former player Pratt has chalked up seven years as Canterbury coach in two spells and admitted taking the team to National League 1 is easily his proudest achievement.

He added: "I'm not quite sure it's sunk in, the weather's doing all sorts I haven't really been able to take it in but I'm over the moon. It's just a massive thing for the club, it hasn't hit me yet."

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