KENILWORTH RUGBY FOOTBALL CLUB
League champions Kenilworth ran out comfortable winners against Old Coventrians on Saturday, scoring six tries to secure a 52-18 victory, writes Bruce Doe.
Despite starting their penultimate league game with nine changes to the title-clinching Midlands 2 West (South) side from the previous week and a last-minute change to a smaller and narrower pitch in an attempt by the relegation-threatened hosts to thwart the visitors’ free-flowing attack, Kenilworth demonstrated their league-winning prowess in an impressive performance.
It was in fact out wide that Kenilworth scored their first try after only five minutes when Old Coventrians tried to move the ball along their backs only to lose possession. With Kenilworth’s defence pushing up, Josh O’Brien hacked the ball on and waited for the ball to bobble up before securing it in his hands and touching down just a few feet in from the corner flag. Fly half Neil Sutherland successfully converted the try to give Kenilworth a 7-0 lead.
After a period of play in the middle of the pitch as a determined Old Coventrians worked hard to get back into the game, a great break by the Old Coventrians flanker saw him make substantial progress up the middle of the pitch. When the ball was moved left, Kenilworth winger Ollie Sharples put in a great smothering tackle. However, recycled ball was moved in field where Kenilworth were penalised for offside. With the penalty awarded almost in front of the posts, Old Coventrirans opted for the kick at goal and secured their first points of the afternoon to take the score to 7-3.
An almost identical phase of play was to follow a few minutes later when the same player broke up the middle only to be halted by a brave tackle from full back Garrett Bell. Kenilworth were again penalised at the breakdown, this time for a side entry. Old Coventrians opted for the kick at goal once again and reduced Kenilworth’s lead to just one point with the score now standing at 7-6.
Kenilworth ‘re-awoke’ and immediately pressurised Old Coventrians with a quick heeled scrum ball and looked to be heading for the Old Coventrians line once more when skipper Bobby Thompson picked up at the base and went blind with flanker Jai Purewal in support alongside O’Brien. Unfortunately the off load in the tackle to Purewal was knocked to the ground and the try scoring chance had gone.
However, there was not much longer to wait for Kenilworth to score their second try. Following a penalty kick to the left corner, the visitors caught and drove the ball forward with impressive prop forward Jake Byrne driving hard for the line to secure Kenilworth’s second of the afternoon. With Sutherland again successful with the conversion, Kenilworth led 14-6.
From the kick off, Kenilworth again put Old Coventrians under considerable pressure with Thompson making good yards despite many attempts to halt his progress. The ball was taken on further by both Charlie Stevens and flanker Sam Harrison. An Old Coventrians infringement under pressure resulted in another penalty which scrum half Alex Selby kicked deep into Old Coventrians territory. Subsequent line out ball was moved first in field before going back out to the left through the hands of Harrison and Stevens to Byrne who provided a great offload to Thompson who went over out wide for Kenilworth’s third try. The unconverted try meant that Kenilworth now led 19-6.
Kenilworth closed the half by scoring their fourth and possibly best try of the game when the ball was moved quickly and effectively through the hands for Bell to make a great entry into the backline and set off on a great line to cover the remaining 30 metres at speed and go in under the posts. With the conversion good and the bonus point try in the bank, Kenilworth went into half time 26-6 to the good.
At the re-start Kenilworth were a bit slow out of the blocks as Old Coventrians worked hard to pin the visitors back. After a number of forward drives, Old Coventrians edged towards the Kenilworth try line and were eventually rewarded with their first try just to the right of the posts. With the conversion good, Old Coventrians pulled the score back to 26-13.
The conceded try succeeded in waking Kenilworth up as they again put Old Coventrians under pressure in their own half. Replacements Gareth Renowden and Johnny Openshaw added to the increased momentum by working hard around the pitch and with an OC’s player sent to the bin for tackling full back Bell in the air, Kenilworth edged closer and closer to OC’s try line after a period of considerable pressure. Centre Charlie Stevens then ignored spare men outside him and drove over for Kenilworth’s fifth try. With Sutherland again converting, Kenilworth stretched their lead to 33-15.
Following the restart Kenilworth worked their way back down the pitch again. Good work and mobility from replacement Openshaw contributed to an infringement by Old Coventrians and Kenilworth kicked to the corner but failed to secure the subsequent line out. However, the ensuing Old Coventrians clearance kick failed to find touch and was fielded well by full back Bell. Recycled ball was then spun quickly to the right and after superb hands by Josh O’Brien and winger Ollie Sharples, replacement hooker Harry Abell drove over for a good try. With the conversion good, Kenilworth made their lead unassailable at 40-3.
A sixth try was to follow immediately after when Selby kicked speculatively ahead. Sutherland chased more in hope than expectancy but was rewarded when both of the Old Coventrians defenders failed to deal with the rolling ball, allowing Sutherland to simply place his hand down on the ball to score near the corner flag. The try, which was unconverted, meant Kenilworth’s lead stretched to 45-13.
Kenilworth went straight back at Old Coventrians and the subsequent pressure brought a penalty that Kenilworth kicked to the corner. The lineout, although not cleanly won by Kenilworth, was tidied up by prop Byrne who made good yards towards the Old Coventrians line. Quickly recycled ball was then spun to the right where the hard-working Nick Gerber was positioned to drive over beneath the posts for Kenilworth’s seventh try. With the straight forward kick converted, Kenilworth scored their final points of the game to lead 52-13.
To Old Coventrians credit, they restarted in determined fashion driving directly at Kenilworth. With their prop breaking free and making good ground towards the posts, a good offload to a fellow forward saw Old Coventrians driving over for their second try. With the try unconverted the game ended immediately after as Kenilworth sealed a 52-18 victory in their final away match of the 2018/19 season.
Given the significant number of changes and Old Coventrians likely desperation to get a result, this was another potential banana skin that was extremely well navigated by both Kenilworth’s players and coaches. Kenilworth finish their league season next week at Glasshouse Lane against second-placed Old Laurentians before embarking on their RFU Intermediate Cup semi-final and the final of the Warwickshire Shield later in the month. What a season this is turning out to be!