KENILWORTH RUGBY FOOTBALL CLUB
Kenilworth made it three from three against Kidderminster this season with a narrow 15-10 victory to be crowned Midlands Division winners and book their place in the semi finals of the national RFU Intermediate Cup, writes Bruce Doe.
It was the second time in a week and the third time in just five months that Kenilworth met their strong league rivals Kidderminster Carolians with the Glasshouse Lane side once again coming out on top to reach the last four.
Before kick off, a minute's silence was held to remember Midlands rugby and club legend Chris Wheatley who played for both Kenilworth and Coventry. The windy conditions somewhat hampered the type of free running rugby the former centre relished playing in but he would have been thoroughly impressed with the spirit, determination and commitment shown by the Kenilworth players.
With the gusting, often gale force wind which was mostly blowing down the length of the pitch, it was Kidderminster who had it at their backs in the first half and it was therefore not long before they found themselves attacking the Kenilworth try line. With only five minutes gone, a scrum 15 yards out was won by Kidderminster who went to the blind side. Two quick passes later, the strong and quick winger Arthur Morgan ran in his side’s first try. With the wind now gusting diagonally across the pitch, the conversion attempt was blown wide and in a repeat of the previous week’s game, Kidderminster had taken an early advantage.
Also in repeat, the score was to galvanise Kenilworth who, from the kick off, gained possession of the ball and forced their way deep into the Kidderminster half. Skipper Bobby Thompson set off on a strong penetrating run ending with an offload to scrum half Gareth Renowden. The ball then moved quickly between the hands of Ed Hannam, Mikkel Andresen and finally to impressive flanker Sam Harrison who covered the remaining ground quickly to touch down near the posts. The try was converted by Hannam, against the wind, which meant Kenilworth now led 7-5.
Despite the occasional sortie into the Kidderminster half, Kenilworth were to spend the remainder of the first half defending their lead. On those occasions when Kidderminster worked close in on the Kenilworth line, the hosts' defence took on an even greater determination to knock Kidderminster back. This resulted in Kidderminster errors and penalties being given away. As a consequence, Kenilworth closed out the half 7-5 to the good.
With the wind still blowing a gale down the length of the pitch, it was Kenilworth’s turn to take advantage of it. They mostly did so well, finding themselves almost immediately camped in the Kidderminster 22 only a few yards away from the visitors' try line. They stayed there for the best part of 15 minutes and a lot of that time was spent with the defending team trying to play their way out of defence rather than to try and kick into the stiff breeze, but Kenilworth’s position held strong. Eventually, Kenilworth were awarded a penalty which which successfully kicked by Hannam to extend the hosts' lead to 10-5.
On the occasions that Kenilworth had the ball and attacked, the opposition's defence, likewise, held strong. Kenilworth were therefore made to wait for that all important second score. In fact it looked like Kidderminster, much against the run of play, were going to score as impressive second row Chris May broke free up the middle of the pitch and charged for the Kenilworth line. However, the ever alert Kenilworth wing Ollie Burman set off on a cross field run to tackle and bring the advancing player down, thus preventing the try. Kidderminster then went through the phases and went wide but desperate Kenilworth defence bundled winger Morgan into to touch.
Having weathered that brief Kidderminster storm, Kenilworth got themselves back deep into the opposition half, edging closer and closer to the try line and that all important next score. After working through the phases and retaining the ball well, Kenilworth realised that there was space out left. A couple of passes later, flanker Harrison crossed the Kidderminster try line for Kenilworth’s second and hopefully, decisive try. The wind, as expected, conspired to prevent a Hannam conversion as Kenilworth entered the final few minutes of the game ten points clear at 15-5.
Kidderminster, though, are not a team to give up the cause and despite being deep in their own half, they looked for opportunities to break free upfield. With just a couple of minutes to go Kidderminster were awarded a scrum only a few yards from their line. Their big and mobile number eight picked up their hooked ball and made good ground before moving the ball right for winger Ryan Tiene to run the best part of 70 metres to touch down for a good, opportunist try out wide on the right. With the conversion missed, Kidderminster had pulled back to only five points behind. Kenilworth and their supporters were therefore left to face a nervous couple of minutes but the side remained solid to see the game through to the final whistle for a Cup-winning scoreline of 15-10.
Kenilworth, as Midlands Intermediate Cup winners, now progress to the semi final stage with a game against the winners of the Northern Intermediate Cup, South Shields Westoe on Saturday 20th April. For the victors of that match, the RFU Intermediate Cup final, at Twickenham, awaits.
This Saturday (23rd March), Kenilworth return to league action with a tough away fixture against old rivals Leamington who have picked up two strong wins recently to move themselves clear of any relegation worries.