KENILWORTH RUGBY FOOTBALL CLUB
Kenilworth came out on top of an exciting, physical and very competitive encounter to complete the League Double over fellow promotion contenders Kidderminster Carolians with a 26-14 victory, writes Bruce Doe.
An excellent bonus point try in the closing minutes saw Kenilworth close the game out, as second-placed Old Laurentians failed to gain a bonus point which allowed Kenilworth to increase their lead at the top to nine points.
Despite a handful of enforced changes, Kenilworth took to the field with a strong squad of players but it was Kidderminster who came out of the blocks first, playing with the gusting wind at their backs. With only five or so minutes on the clock, Kidderminster worked through a series of phases forcing a line out near the Kenilworth 22. From the line out, Kidderminster drove effectively across the pitch left and forced gaps to cross the line and score their first of two tries. With the conversion good, Kidderminster had quickly taken a seven-point lead.
This fortunately woke Kenilworth up from their early game slumber as they started to ask questions of their opponents. Initially dominating possession in midfield, Kenilworth began driving their bigger forwards backwards, making ground first to the left, then to the right and finally back on the left again for stalwart prop Rhidian Booth to touch down left of the posts. The driving wind prevented a successful conversion but Kenilworth had at last shown their intent and took the score to 5-7.
For a period of time Kenilworth either controlled possession or put considerable pressure on Kidderminster when they were in possession. In one instance fly half Selby charged down his opposite numbers kick to take Kenilworth to within 10 yards of the Kidderminster try line. Kidderminster cleared their lines and worked hard to achieve parity and on one such occasion put a high ball up into the air to charge onto. With the ball moving around in the air it proved difficult to field, resulting in ball lost forward and a scrum down to Kidderminster. Kidderminster then started to again take the game to their opponents but strong and effective defence from Kenilworth forced a penalty decision in their favour to allow them to clear their lines.
Kenilworth seized upon their new momentum and took the game to Kidderminster with a series of strong runs, none more so than Mikkel Andresen who made good ground into the opposition 22. Quick ball moved right to second row Tondi Mpambawashe was abruptly halted when he was the recipient of a high tackle, resulting in a Kidderminster yellow card with Kenilworth kicking the resultant penalty to the corner. The line out was caught and driven and scrum half Gareth Renowden, never one to miss an opportunity to snipe, did just that by going blind to touch down in the corner. With a brief lull in the wind, Ed Hannam's great conversion gave Kenilworth the lead at 12-7.
With their tails up, Kenilworth continued to take the game to the opposition and the ongoing pressure resulted in a five metre scrum. A strongly hooked ball squirting out the back of the scrum was picked up by Renowden who fed to skipper and number eight Bobby Thompson who forced his way over the try line under the posts. With the conversion good, Kenilworth ended the first half on top by 19-7.
The second half started with both sides trying to dominate possession and territory but both sides went through a spell of winning the ball only to give it away again soon after. As a consequence it became a scrappy period before Kenilworth then seemed to compound that situation by making mistakes and missing tackles. This allowed Kidderminster the space to run at Kenilworth and with space appearing to the left of the posts their centre drove towards the try line and touched down for his team's second try. Being near to posts the conversion was good bringing them to within just five points of Kenilworth who still held the lead at 19-14.
A nervous period followed, particularly for the Kenilworth supporters, as Kidderminster upped their game all the more, now driving hard at the Kenilworth defence for that all important next score. However, as was the feature in their earlier league meeting, Kenilworth's defence stood strong and their bravery and determination paid off when Kidderminster conceded a penalty, allowing the home side to move a safer distance away from their own line. The tide then seemed to be turning as Kenilworth edged their way into the Kidderminster half.
Not long after, Kenilworth thought they had scored their fourth try when, from around the half way line, Ed Hannam kicked ahead. Nearly everyone, but more importantly the referee, gave up the chase as it appeared as though the ball would roll out over the dead ball line. Only winger Josh O’Brien continued in his pursuit and in fact touched the ball down just before the line. Unfortunately, the referee being a long way away, decreed the ball had in fact run dead and gave a scrum back to Kidderminster on the half way line.
With around 10 minutes left, Kidderminster were now looking to run everything at Kenilworth and spectator nerves once again became frayed. However, Kenilworth continued to defensively pressurise Kidderminster. Such pressure caused Kidderminster to spill the ball forward. The loose ball was quickly picked up and moved on to fast approaching second row Tom Naismith who made good ground on the narrow side before straightening up. This committed two defenders before Naismith freed his arms in contact to offload superbly to Charlie Stevens who stepped inside the oncoming Kidderminster defender and touched down to the right of the posts. His excellent opportunist try was converted well by Ed Hannam to make the game almost safe at 26-14 with only a few minutes left.
Kidderminster again started to throw the kitchen sink at Kenilworth but it was the home side that stood strong in face of the onslaught. Kidderminster were now being frustrated at every turn by an efficient and committed Kenilworth defence. Sadly, with only seconds to go, the Kidderminster prop was sent off for a punching the face of Kenilworth's back rower Sam Harrison. This was a disappointing end from the game's point of view as it was a really exciting, committed and competitive game between two very good sides.
Kenilworth take a break from their league promotion challenge next week when Kidderminster return to Glasshouse Lane for the Midlands final of the RFU Intermediate Cup. The winners then move through to the national Intermediate Cup semi final against the winners of the Northern final, with a place in the Intermediate Cup final at Twickenham up for grabs. Kick off is at 2:30pm and everyone is warmly invited to Glasshouse Lane for what is expected to be an enjoyable afternoon of highly competitive rugby union.