Eastern Counties 36 Kent 25
Eastern Counties, helped by six Bury St Edmunds players, got the start they wanted by winning their opening group game in style against a determined Kent outfit at the Haperden on Sunday.
A first-half try from Alex Gray, playing on home turf, and four successful kicks from Robert Smith gave Counties a 16-10 interval lead.
Tries from Cambridge pair Olly Veni and Jack Wade, and ten points from replacement Scott Lyall (Bury St Edmunds), stretched the lead to 36-20 five minutes from time, with Kent’s third try too late to make a difference.
After a sluggish start, with Counties going behind to a 10th minute penalty from Frank Reynolds, Smith kicked the first of his three penalties in the 19th minute to level the scores.
He then converted Gray’s 27th minute try, which resulted from a spell of sustained pressure on the Kent line.
Penalties in the 33rd and 38th minute made it 16-3 before Kent took advantage of a yellow card for Bury’s Will Hudson with Ben Dixon scoring in the corner from a lineout, Reynolds converting.
Kent regained the lead in the 55th minute through George Baker, Reynolds again adding the extras.
But penalties from Lyall in the 57th and 59th minutes, plus a try from Venni in the 62nd, which Lyall converted, put Counties firmly back in charge at 29-17.
Reynolds reduced the arrears with a 69th minute penalty, before Wade went over in the 75th minute, Lyall producing a superb kick to stretch Counties’ lead to 36-20.
Kent’s Courtney Horey went over in the corner two minutes later.