OLD ELTHAMIANS 18 CANTERBURY 14
This game was all you would expect of a Kent derby between two top sides, tight, physical and with the result in the melting pot right to the end. While it marked the end of a fine, seven match winning run for Canterbury they came away with massive credit for a second half fight back which gnawed away at a substantial Elthamians lead.
Tries from Tyler Edwards and Guy Hilton, converted from difficult angles by Tom Best, and growing authority at the set pieces brought the city side back into contention after a poor first half left them with plenty of repair work to do.
They failed narrowly to complete the job as a quick and organised Elthamians defence held out against late pressure and, when Canterbury made an error, the home side broke free and might have snatched an extra bonus point themselves.
The odds on this match going down to the wire would have been fairly long at half time, even in the minds of Canterbury’s large crew of supporters. Elthamians were thirteen points in front and when they added their second try a minute after the restart it needed a huge effort of will for the city side to even get off mark.
Their nervous first half was plagued by simple handling errors and lacked any of the precision that has propelled them to victory in the past eight weeks. A minor reshuffle caused by injuries – with Max Cantwell a casualty in the pre-match warm up – did not help but that could not excuse the cardinal sin of failing to look after possession.
Elthamians thrived on that. Their handling was more secure, they piled into the tackles and harassed the city back line relentlessly. Tom White gave them the lead with a penalty goal and, after eighteen minutes, a defensive error leaked more points. Scrum half Ollie Claxton made the break, centre Ben Hough finished off and White converted.
By half time, with White off the field, Chris Surman had landed Elthamians second penalty goal and a poor restart kick helped the hosts to make an ominous start to the second period. A simple, first phase attack from a scrum ended with Max Wilkins crossing to push the lead to eighteen points.
It was a critical point for Canterbury but now they rolled up their collective sleeves and started to dictate play. First there was a driving lineout maul which ended in a Tyler Edwards touch down. They had a piece of luck when Elthamians missed a kickable penalty but there was nothing lucky about the response. With fifteen minutes left in a half punctuated by stoppages, the ball was spread to the right flank where Guy Hilton put in a top class finish.
Elthamians were forced to man the barricades as the city side continued to press but they could not make the decisive break. They resisted expertly a late assault on their own line to take home a losing bonus point which keeps them firmly in the league’s top six going into a three week Christmas break.
Canterbury: M.Beaumont (repl B.Howard), G.Hilton, T.Best, W.Farris (repl J.Jones), J.J.Murray, O.Best, D.Smart, A.Cooper ( repl J.Green),T.Rogers (repl C.Townley), S.Kenny, T.Burns, G.Edwards, T.Edwards (repl L.Woodbridge),, S.Rogers, H.McCormick-Huston.
|8||Bury St Edmunds||30||77|
|13||London Irish Wild Geese||30||57|
|W||7 Apr||London Irish Wild Geese||43-7|
|L||17 Feb||Bury St. Edmunds||26-46|
|L||10 Feb||Taunton Titans||12-21|
|W||13 Jan||Old Redcliffians||48-29|
|L||23 Dec||Tonbridge Juddians||19-22|
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