BARNES 22 CANTERBURY 31
Canterbury booked a date with destiny as this hard earned victory secured their promotion play-off place and the chance to bring National Division One rugby to East Kent for the first time. All eyes now will be on Saturday, May 4th when Chester come to the Marine Travel Ground for the biggest game in the city club’s history.
They may have done it the hard way but Canterbury have become specialists in second half revivals and here they needed another to break a fluid and enterprising Barnes who dominated the first 40 minutes. Expectations and pressures in a game where only a bonus point win would be enough clearly weighed on Canterbury and they fell ten points behind before finding the energy and accuracy to turn things round. They stepped hard on the accelerator to score 26 second half points and airbrush all the earlier failings off the page.
There was a bright enough start, Tom Best pouncing on a Barnes error to make a try for centre partner Sam Sterling, but Canterbury’s anxieties soon showed as they tried to force the pace. The errors multiplied and a relaxed Barnes side, their place in National 2 South already guaranteed, took charge as they reached the break 12-5 ahead. A rolling maul produced a try for Alex Hind and hooker Jack Garrett crashed over from close range for the second. Three minutes after the resumption Tom O’Toole added a penalty goal to his earlier conversion to leave the city side with an urgent repair job on their hands. It was now they showed the determination and quality that has brought them so far this season. Barnes were suddenly the team under huge pressure and it cost them seven points from a penalty try and a yellow card for Johan Van der Poel. Moments later he was followed to the sin bin by George Head and Canterbury surged over from a scrum with Jamie Stephens making the touchdown. Ollie Best converted but the target now was that vital bonus point score and it was the increasingly influential Sterling who provided it. In the 66th minute the centre’s power and elusive running split a tiring Barnes and the city side had ticked all the boxes. Best converted and two minutes later Ricky Mackintosh sealed the win as he went clear from 50 metres and no one looked like stopping him. Barnes worked a last minute consolation score for Rob Malaney, converted by O’Toole, but despite their impressive contribution this was Canterbury’s day.
Canterbury: C.Grimes, R.Mackintosh, S.Sterling, T.Best (repl B. Neville), J.J.Murray, O.Best, D.Smart (repl K.Braithwaite), A.Cooper, T.King (repl J.Otto), S.Kenny (repl A.Wake-Smith), R.Cadman (repl L.Whetton), M.Corker, S.Rogers, S.Stapleton, J.Stephens.