Kent 31-23 Durham

Kent travelled to Twickenham on Sunday for the first time since 1986 to take on Durham in the county championship Plate final, both counties having already secured promotion to the top tier of English county rugby.

In glorious sunshine Kent ran in four tries to record a 31-23 victory over Durham and deservedly lift the plate.

Durham were made to defend like lions in the early stages and, but with their first foray into Kent territory, were able to win the penalty to take the lead – Hodgson converting with ease from on the 22 metre line.

If that was harsh on Kent, they soon made amends, winning a penalty of their own straight from the restart. The tireless Barton, West and Stradwick forcing the concession. Luke Giles, after an earlier miss, this time made no mistake to level the scores.

Kent dominated possession early on. Cutting, Bonner and Forsyth together with Vanner and Cadman providing the platform. Kent went close a few times but could not capitalise on the excellent platform provided by the forwards.

Durham fly half, Hodgson, maintained his strong start to the game with a second successful penalty, this time from a more challenging position wide on the left.

Hodgson then made it three out of three as we approached half-time to extend the Durham advantage to 9-3.

But as all throughout the game Kent continued to look the more threatening of the two sides with ball in hand, Eydmann and Giles ensuring Durham were tested at every opportunity. White, Bennett and Beaumont look dangerous every time the ball went wide.

Kent finally got their just rewards from the restart when Martyn Beaumont made a scything attack deep into Durham territory before offloading to give Ben Hough the run-in to score in the left corner. This was unconverted.

Kent now turned the screw.

The defence was robust and solid. Burcham, Barton and West all making telling tackles.

With ball in hand Kent cleared the rucks quickly and accurately and got their reward taking the lead for the first time with a second Giles penalty with Durham penalised for slowing the ball down.

Kent then extended their advantage before the break with a superb solo try from captain Tom Stradwick, who burst from halfway and had enough momentum, just, to ride one challenge and touch down between the posts.

Giles saw his conversion attempt come back off the post but Kent still went in 16-9 up at the break and on the balance of play deserved this lead.

The early exchanges in the second half were fairly even as Durham tried to find a way back. However Kent whose strong forward bench of Cleverley, Fry, Read and Liston gave the Durham forwards no respite and were always the more likely to score.

The advantage was extended still further midway through the second half with the try of the game.

Renford Bennett was the architect with a brilliant chip and charge on the left, making quick ground before laying off to give James Munton an unchal-lenged run in to score.

Giles made no mistake with the conversion.

Durham refused to give up the ghost though, and gave themselves a lifeline as a pe-riod of pressure on the Kent line was finally rewarded with a try for skipper Chris Wearmouth.

Kent, whose defence throughout the campaign has been excellent, will be a little disappointed with the ease in which Wearmouth managed to get over the line.

But Kent regrouped and quickly closed the door as a breakdown on the left saw them spread play across to the right through Burcham, Gallagher and Hough for Beaumont to register his side’s fourth try of the afternoon.

Durham still had time to add a second try of their own, a well worked effort finished by Callum Mackenzie and converted by Hodgson.

That set up a tense finish, but Kent defended well high up the field and won a penalty at the breakdown which proved to be the last kick of the game – Paul Humphries kicked a penalty to wrap it up for Kent.

A fantastic win which was thoroughly deserved. Credit also goes to Durham as both sides continually looked to play the game in the right spirit and with ambition.

Kent chairman David Corry said: "The day itself was a success and great credit for that goes to Taff Gwilliam who worked tirelessly on the many and varied tasks associated with a team playing at Twickenham and the massive clerical exercise needed in the ticketing requirements for players and supporters.

Kent coach Chris Wilkins added: “It was a great day for Kent rugby and it was pleasing to see the Squad play well and pro-duce a strong performance to beat a hard working Durham Side.

"I felt that the Set piece and breakdown work gave us plenty of possession and whilst we could have scored a few more tries it was a good performance which led to the win.

"When we were under pressure we de-fended well as we have during the whole campaign.

"The whole squad have worked very hard as usual and the team spirit and camaraderie were excellent, which played a big part in us winning.

"We are a close knit team off the pitch as well and I would like to thank my fellow coaches John Gallagher and Taff Gwilliam, who have been superb, as well as all the Man-agement team and David Corry and the committee .

"We have worked hard for a number of years to get to yesterday and everyone is very keen to build on it and use it as a springboard , with the aim of getting back to Twickenham next year, when we go into Division One, which should be a great challenge.”

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