TONBRDGE JUDDIANS 23 CANTERBURY 18
All good things come to an end and this Kent derby was Canterbury’s moment as they slipped to their first defeat in nine games.
It was a strangely off colour performance from a city side which can have few complaints about the result. The reliable boot of Juddians fly half Will Robinson, with thirteen points, made the difference on the scoreboard but his side handled the important moments with more intent, accuracy and steely defence.
Canterbury were to pay a price for a slow start and found themselves ten points adrift in the first twenty minutes. Robinson kicked the first of his three penalty goals and converted Finlay Coxon-Smith’s try after a missed tackle gave the wing his chance. It opened a crucial lead which Judds never surrendered. When the city side finally came alive Sam Sterling’s break put them on the front foot and they worked skipper Sean Stapleton over for a try.
That brief period of optimism, however, was undone when Dan Smart was yellow carded for a tip tackle and the penalty gave Judds a foothold. Some heavyweight driving opened the way for scrum half Charlie Edwards to burrow over for the second try and Robinson to convert.
Canterbury clawed back three points before half time through an Ollie Best penalty goal but in tight contests every point counts and their earlier decision to ignore an easy shot at goal and opt for a scrum blew up in their faces.
Trailing by eleven points they needed to make an early score after the break but were denied by some excellent defending. Instead it was Robinson who slotted another three points leaving Canterbury needing a catch up plan. They got their opportunity when Judds hooker Ryan Jackson went to the sin bin and Smart scored at close quarters. Best’s conversion left them only one score behind but Canterbury made hard work of finding a further way through, not helped by slack handling.
Robinson and Best exchanged penalties in a tense final quarter and the game ended with the city side trying, unsuccessfully, to break out from deep. Aiden Moss gave them the best hope with a clever chip and gather but that Judds defence made sure they got the derby Christmas present.
Canterbury A.Moss, R.Mackintosh, S.Sterling (repl C.Grimes), T.Best, JJ. Murray, O.Best, D.Smart (repl K.Braithwaite), A,Cooper (repl A.Wake-Smith), T.King (repl J.Otto), S.Kenny, R.Cadman, M.Corker, L.Whetton (repl F.Edwards), S.Stapleton, J.Stephens