KENILWORTH RUGBY FOOTBALL CLUB
Kenilworth’s 2nd XV secured a dramatic 22-20 victory over Leamington to lift the 2nd XV Warwickshire Shield on Sunday, writes Peter Jones.
Despite at times appearing to use their best endeavours to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, Kenilworth's 2nd XV further endorsed the club’s outstanding season so far with a fine win over close rivals Leamington. In an outstandingly competitive game, Kenilworth ultimately proved victorious scoring four tries to Leamington’s three in a match which was dominated by a strong and blustery wind.
Leamington opened the scoring within the first few minutes with an unconverted try, to which Kenilworth quickly responded from a line out penalty with a fine forwards try from number eight Andy Mackenzie. The strong wind meant it was not a day for the goal kickers and the conversion was missed, leaving the game level at 5-5.
Young Tigers’ Academy product, Finn Gibson, made an outstanding senior debut in the back row and was clearly not intimidated by being half the age of many of the players on the pitch.
Leamington had some very strong runners, including former Kenilworth Juniors player Matt Cooper at number eight, but Kenilworth’s defence for the large part stood their ground and their defensive two man tackles prevented Leamington from gaining any “go forward ball”. Captain Raj Bahey made an outstanding contribution in both defence and attack, soaking up tackles and driving the “hard yards”.
Leamington added a penalty which nudged them in front at 5-8, before Mackenzie scored his second of the afternoon from a forward drive to give Kenilworth a narrow 10-8 lead.
Not all of Kenilworth’s defensive work was as impressive and, before half time, Leamington added a further try which was converted to give them a 10-15 lead at the break.
More good forward work from Kenilworth led to Mackenzie completing his hat-trick after the interval, to level the scores at 15 apiece.
The final quarter of the game continued to be very competitive, with Kenilworth aiding their opponents’ cause through a series of penalties and spells of ill-discipline.
Jimmy Middleton was unfortunate to receive a yellow card for a “no arms tackle” while another “early bath” at one point reduced the Kenilworth side to 13 men. Leamington added a further try to give them a narrow 15-20 lead.
To their credit, Kenilworth battled on bravely and forced a superb try by fly half Neil Sutherland, which he himself then converted to snatch back a narrow lead.
Towards the end of the game Dom Carrick entered the fray to add bulk and expertise to the Kenilworth side but despite exhortations from their supporters to “kick the ball to Norfolk” or similar, Kenilworth continued to live dangerously, playing rugby deep within their own half. In the event, they deservedly hung on until the final whistle to edge out their opponents by 22-20.
There were some fine individual performances, in particular from Johnny Openshaw, Jai Purewal, hat trick hero Mackenzie, Sutherland and Cory Joy. However, the overall man of the match was Bahey, inspiring his men and indeed the club to win what is hopefully the first of several trophies this season.