KENILWORTH RUGBY FOOTBALL CLUB
WHITCHURCH 28 KENILWORTH 14
Second place Kenilworth travelled to face the North Shropshire side for their first game of 2020. Unfortunately their indifferent away form continued as they slipped to a 28-14 defeat, their fourth of the season, all away from home, dropping to 3rd in the league in the process, writes Bruce Doe.
The first 15 or more minutes of the game however, gave real hope and optimism to the travelling away support as Kenilworth spent virtually all of that time camped on the Whitchurch try line, even missing a penalty. Unfortunately the Whitchurch defence stood strong, even when down to 14 men following a yellow card, as they did throughout most of the game. Kenilworth persevered with their pick and drive approach, only occasionally moving the ball through the hands but such early attacks were repelled by the home side.
Clearly gaining in confidence and self belief, Whitchurch were awarded a penalty around midway which was kicked to the corner. The inevitable catch and drive followed resulting in the home side’s first try of the afternoon, wide out on the left. The first of a number of impressive conversions followed leaving Kenilworth 7 points down with around 20 minutes gone.
Kenilworth responded well from the ensuing kickoff, putting Whitchurch under pressure and pushing them back deep into the home side half. However, a penalty award against Kenilworth for holding on and subsequent needless ‘back chat’ to the referee, which gained Whitchurch a further 10 yards, brought additional and quite unnecessary pressure on the mis-firing away side. Just a few minutes later Whitchurch latched on to lose Kenilworth ball and both swiftly and effectively passed the ball through their backs whereupon the home side centre took advantage of the space offered and cut through, over the Kenilworth try line, touching down under the posts. The easy conversion achieved, Kenilworth found themselves 14 points down.
That second try clearly boosted Whitchurch who started to play with real confidence with their half backs controlling their increasing forward progress. To be fair, Kenilworth worked hard to contain them and started to gain field position. Unfortunately the mistakes continued. Following a good Kenilworth attack that saw Ed Hannam (playing at full back) make good ground towards Whitchurch try line, a subsequent line out was well taken by second row Tondi Mpambawashe, the ball moved right through the hands only for the away side to be penalised for ‘crossing’. Working hard to get some sort of foothold in the game, Kenilworth worked their way back again into the Whitchurch half only for progress to be halted for ‘holding on’. Half time followed soon after, with the pattern having been established of Kenilworth working hard to make an impression but putting themselves under pressure by making too many mistakes and ‘slow ball’.
With Centre Charlie Stevens now sidelined with a hamstring injury and second row Connor Burnet off with a head knock, Kenilworth were forced to reshuffle. Skipper Bobby Thompson moved into the backs, flanker Sam Harrison came off the bench into the back row and replacement back Jack Rawlins moved onto the wing. Despite the unplanned changes, Kenilworth started the second half with clear intent and in the belief that whilst 14 points down, all was by no means lost. However, early continuity was broken when inexplicably the referee halted a promising Kenilworth move when playing with a penalty advantage, in space and with a man over. Whilst the penalty was in a good kickable position, it was unfortunately missed.
Kenilworth persevered, retaining possession for a few minutes, but failing to be incisive. Inevitably, Whitchurch continued to frustrate Kenilworth with a strong defensive line and started to make progress deep into the Kenilworth half. From a lineout on the 22, Whitchurch caught and drove the ball the full 22 metres back to the Kenilworth try line to score out left. Another good conversion meant that Kenilworth were now 21 points down.
Now playing catch up, Kenilworth forced their way back into Whitchurch territory and a kick ahead by Ed Hannam took the away side to try scoring territory. Following a 5 metre scrum, Whitchurch were penalised. Scrum half Renowden took a quick tap penalty but was immediately blocked resulting in a Yellow Card for the offending player and a Penalty Try to Kenilworth. Score now 7-21.
For the next few minutes the game became quite messy with lots of back and forth but little in the way of progress from either side. It was the home side that got themselves reorganised first when following a line out on the Kenilworth 22, they moved the ball both left, right and then back again to find more than sufficient space to score their 4th and bonus point try. The far from straightforward conversion was again achieved putting the home side well and truly in the driving seat at 7-28.
With around 10 minutes to go, Kenilworth brought off last year’s colt Charlie Morris and brought on 1990’s Colt Nick Collett.... Kenilworth, again to their credit, tried to get back into the game, but as soon as progress was made, position was given away. Following a quick tap and go, skipper Bobby Thompson made good ground. Unfortunately, likely as a consequence of a lack of ‘clearing out’ support, Kenilworth were penalised for going in at the side. Continued efforts eventually saw them gain a penalty in the Whitchurch half which was kicked to the corner. Kenilworth secured the lineout and Thompson touched down for his side’s second try. Converted by Cruickshank, that was to be the last play of the game, Kenilworth coming a justifiable second at 14-28.
Kenilworth will no doubt look to bounce straight back next Saturday when seeking to beat Worcestershire side Droitwich and maintain their long standing home, unbeaten, run.