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Kent comeback to win Bill Beaumont Cup
Kent comeback to win Bill Beaumont Cup

Kent secured their first Bill Beaumont Men’s County Championship in 96 years with an incredible 39-37 comeback win.

Tries from Daniel Rylance, Ben Gregory, Tom Grimes, Toby Harrison and Connor Wilkinson had put opponents Lancashire, searching for a County Championship double after winning the Women’s County Championship earlier in the day, into a 27-10 half-time lead.

But Kent responded with 17 points in just eight minutes to level the scores thanks to a penalty try and Toby Wallace’s score to set up an enthralling last half an hour. The game continued to be played at a rapid pace, as skipper Daniel Birchall put Lancashire back in front, before Nick Cooke responded again.

A late Rafael Dutta try and subsequent touchline conversion from Sam Evans, taking his tally to 12 points, appeared to have won Kent the match, only for Rhys Henderson to reduce the gap once more, but Greg Smith was unable to level the scores with a touchline kick of his own.

Kent were inspired at half time when Henry Higginson was sent to the sin-bin and they took immediate advantage; their eight-man pack proved superior to the seven of Lancashire and they were promptly awarded a penalty try.

Two minutes later, they scored another try, with winger Wallace getting on the end of a perfect pass from Bryan Hotson. The momentum continued for Kent and when awarded a penalty at the breakdown, Evans nailed the shot at goal, levelling the scores at 27-27.

No sooner had Kent pulled level than Lancashire went back into the lead through their inspirational captain Birchall, to mark his 30th County Championship appearance. For the third time in the game, Greg Smith saw his kick agonisingly hit the upright and the lead was only five points with 29 minutes left on the clock.

The scoring seized as the game became tighter, but with just three minutes left on the clock, flanker Dutta went over in the corner to put Kent into an astonishing 39-32 lead. Somehow Lancashire found a way to add another twist to the tale and winger Rhys Henderson ran in unopposed to the corner, but Smith’s kick was short confirming Kent’s win.

Picture supplied by Canterbury Rugby Club.