East Midlands Cup Final: Luton RFC 16 Kettering RFC 18
Kettering RFC hit-man Joe Daniel broke Luton hearts with a late penalty to see them lift their 11th East Midlands Cup at Goldington Road on Wednesday night.
Luton had led 16-15 until a late penalty was awarded to Kettering and with the final kick of the game, Daniel stormed the Blues to victory.
It was a fierce game at the home of the Bedford Blues and Kettering wasted no time stamping their authority on proceedings, scoring the game’s opening try through Tom Bridgeman.
Full back Daniel added the extras as his side led 7-0 after three minutes.
Daniel had the chance to extend the lead for Kettering but his long range penalty went wide.
In the 23rd minute, Luton finally got a break when fly half Rick Hobbs’ penalty was sweetly struck between the opposition’s posts.
With the score at 7-3, a first half injury spelled the end for Kettering’s Ben Hanger who was subsequently replaced by no.16 Josh Cox.
The Blues continued to mount pressure on Luton, passing effectively despite being second best to Luton’s strong line outs.
Kettering scored another penalty before a resolute Rick Hobbs struck back late in the first half, kicking Luton within four points of Kettering who went into the break 10-6 in front.
Hobbs’ late first half penalty seemed to rejuvenate Luton who came out in the second with more potency and game strategy.
However, Jack Elston suffered a knock to his left leg and was stretchered off during a lengthy stoppage.
On 53 minutes, Tom Mahendran gave the Luton fans something to cheer about, crashing through the Kettering back line to give Paul Allen’s side the advantage for the first time.
Hobbs increased the slim lead, maintaining his 100 per cent kicking ratio to edge Luton 13-10 in front.
Hobbs continued to inspire and a crucial 67th minute penalty brought some daylight between the two teams as Luton had one hand on the trophy.
However, a tenacious and desperate Kettering threw everything at their opponents, clawing and pressing to get themselves back into the game.
In the 80th minute, a last gasp try brought Kettering within touching distance and it was down to a late conversion.
The crowd was silent and Daniel stepped up to strike but his effort was sensationally struck just wide off the mark.
It looked like Luton’s four year wait for silverware was over, but referee Gary Malpas awarded a late penalty to Kettering, which Daniel converted to win it 18-16 for his side and break Luton hearts.