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Kent under-20 rugby team beat Yorkshire in the semi-final of the Jason Leonard National County Championships and will meet Cornwall in the final

Kent Rugby’s under-20 side are through to the final of the National County Championships after defeating the defending champions.

A 34-13 victory over Yorkshire at Charlton Park RFC puts Kent into the final of the competition for the first time ever and a chance to play for the Jason Leonard Cup.

Winning Kent under-20 squad that beat Yorkshire (56150599)
Winning Kent under-20 squad that beat Yorkshire (56150599)

Coach Taff Gwilliam said: “This is a fantastic achievement for these players. Most of them did not know each other when they came together.

“It is a brilliant advert for community rugby in Kent when players from 14 different clubs at different levels can come together and grow as they have to achieve a bit of history for themselves and Kent Rugby.”

He added: “Their families are proud, we are proud, Kent Rugby is proud. We now look forward to taking on another English County powerhouse, Cornwall, in the final.”

The early stages of Sunday’s game saw both sides trying to impose themselves on the other at the breakdown and set-piece. It was reigning champions Yorkshire who were first to score. The boot of Julien Lesczynski accurate following an offside penalty.

Kent replied two minutes later with Westcombe Park’s Ben Fryatt on target as the match officials ensured the offside line was obeyed by both sides. 3-3.

With 23 minutes gone Kent took the lead with another Fryatt penalty for a ruck offence following industrious work from the forwards.

Yorkshire had looked to press the Kent line but sterling defence with the back row of Michael Fankah, Harvey Furneaux and Namir Khalil outstanding in dealing with the large forwards of Yorkshire.

Kent’s solid defence was to be a primary factor in securing victory on the day. The Yorkshire attacks were repulsed and Kent took the game to their illustrious visitors.

Good ball carrying from Will McColl, Charlie Galligan and Maik Timmerman got Kent on the front foot. With Finlay, O’Sullivan and Ed Marsh adding dynamism to the forward play Kent started to control the ball.

Having taken the lead the Kent forwards carried hard having secured the restart. Good phases from the forwards narrowed the Yorkshire defence.

The ever-sharp Pressley Farrance combined with captain Fryatt to put Jack Cohen away. Cohen broke the first tackle and his speed beat the cover defence emphatically to score the first try of the match. Fryatt converted for a 13-3 lead.

The Yorkshire winger Will Johnson twice went close but good defending, firstly from Dema Dawodu and then Cohen denied Johnson out wide. The Yorkshire forwards then looked to the pick and go but McColl, O’Sullivan, Fankah, Noah and the other forwards worked hard successfully to prevent the score they sought.

With the last play of the half Kent broke out. Fryatt found space after yet more good carries from the forwards and then excellent distribution from Farrance. Ollie Burkett and Todd Revell showed good footwork and ball retention which saw Yorkshire penalised at the breakdown.

Fryatt made no mistake and Kent went in at half time 16-3 up on the back of their excellent defence.

Yorkshire came out for the second half fired up and were immediately pressing the home line. Again the defence had to be up to the task.

The physicality of the Yorkshire forwards asked questions of Kent time and again. Their only reward, however, was a penalty for a scrum infringement to make the score 16-6 from the boot of Lescynski.

The more the game progressed the more assured the Kent play became and a 10 minute period saw them take the game away from the champions Yorkshire with three quick tries.

Fryatt led the way. Great footwork saw him dance over on the back of some excellent work from the forwards. That was backed up by a Piero Noah effort, powering over from short range and the final try coming from Dawadu, finishing out wide. None of the tries were converted but they had established a commanding lead at 31-6.

Kent were then rocked with the loss of impressive scrum half Farrance to injury. On top of that Fankah was sent to the sin bin. Kent, down to 14 men, freshened the rest of the team up with several replacements.

Kent defended Yorkshire’s last throw of the dice. The standard of defence did not drop despite the concerted pressure. On 70 minutes a proud Yorkshire, who never gave up, scored their first try. Powerful centre Samoni Tobeyaweni going over under the posts. He dropped kicked the conversion successfully as Yorkshire rushed to try and get back at Kent.

Despite Yorkshire’s best efforts, it was Kent who had the final say. The last kick of the game saw Fryatt successful with the penalty to close the game out at 34-13.

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