Published: 05:00, 12 May 2022
| Updated: 09:41, 12 May 2022
Kent edged a thrilling contest against Hampshire 44-43 at Havant RFC in a fine advert for rugby union’s County Championship.
Ironically, a game featuring 11 tries was, ultimately, decided by penalties.
With around eight minutes remaining, Hampshire full-back Rhodri Adamson struck a beauty to push his side into a two-point lead.
Moments later, Frank Reynolds saw a similar effort fall just short but, as Kent pressed again, their scrum - which had an edge throughout - won an easier penalty.
Canterbury fly-half Reynolds duly obliged, taking his match tally to 19 to claim victory.
“Frankie kicked superbly - even the long-range attempt only fell a yard under the bar but was accurate,” said Taff Gwilliam, Kent’s director of rugby.
“Our nerves were on edge, I’m just delighted the boys came through.
“We must put this in perspective. We’ve had just two training sessions and were very disjointed at times.
“But they’re all good rugby players, the communication skills were excellent, and we hung in there and, fortunately, prevailed.”
But fragmentation had showed up in only the fourth minute, as Hampshire sliced down the left wing, and Curtis Barnes’ inside ball sent fly-half Tom Fieldsend across for the match's only unconverted try.
However, a second ‘tap and go’ attempt saw Matt Harrison across at the other end, and the Westcombe Park inside-centre soon followed up with an intercept to put winger Jack Cohen over for Kent’s try.
Two Reynolds penalties sandwiched a try from Hampshire and Havant second-row Harrison Young from a close-range scrum and, as the host county spread ball across the field from a tap-penalty, Barnes sped across to bring the scores to within a point.
Loose ball was picked up by Harrison to extend Kent’s lead again, but Hants’ inside-centre Tom Gwyther strolled across from a scrum conceded at the restart to pull the hosts back within a point at 27-26 at the break.
Kent started well in the second period and, on 50 minutes, Bobby Bratton scored.
Hampshire, however, now started putting phases together for the Worthing duo of Fieldsmen, and then loose-head Dan Sargent, to cross. As the hour-mark approached, the host county moved into the lead for the first time since the early stages.
But a penalty to touch saw Kent set up the drive from which TJ’s hooker Joe Duffy powered across, putting Kent 41-40 ahead before the final kicking duel settled the outcome.
With the 11th-hour withdrawal of Surrey from the competition, Kent can only sit and await other results to see if this result is enough to enable them to contest the final at Twickenham on Saturday, June 4.
Kent squad: Luke Boon (Tonbridge Juddian), Joe Duffy (Tonbridge Juddian), Bobby Bratton (Tonbridge Juddian), Joshua Smith (Westcombe Park), Royce Cadman (Canterbury), Jess Liston (Eaton Manor), Daniel Dass (Blackheath), Tom Stradwick (Blackheath), Tom Williams (Canterbury), Frank Reynolds (Canterbury), Max Halliday (Canterbury), Matt Harrison (Westcombe Park), Keita Orelaji (Westcombe Park), Jack Cohen (Brunel University), Cameron Hancock (Westcombe Park). Replacements: Billy Sandison (Medway), Will McColl (Canterbury), Z Jones (Sidcup), Anthony Clement (Medway), Jacob Buckley (Westcombe Park), Ben Fryatt (Westcombe Park), H English.