KENILWORTH RUGBY FOOTBALL CLUB
Kenilworth put in an impressive and hugely committed performance on Saturday to beat the MI west League Leaders away from home 20-16. Watching the pre-game warm up gave you a sense as to just how ‘up for it’ the travelling side were, writes Bruce Doe.
Immediately from the kick off Kenilworth took the game to the home side, putting them under significant pressure. Dudley Kingswinford (DK) worked hard to defend the early onslaught, giving away early penalties in order to do so. The first penalty Kenilworth kicked to the corner. The line out ball was caught and driven towards the DK line. Kenilworth went through phase after phase, often getting within inches of the home side try line but failing to cross to touch down for that so important first score. A second penalty awarded to Kenilworth was taken as a kick at goal by Jayde Cruickshank but was unfortunately missed. Kenilworth persevered and kept DK pegged back deep for the best part of 15 minutes but were unable to get that first score on the board.
DK too persevered, and eventually cleared their lines and made their way into the Kenilworth half. It was Kenilworth’s turn now to defend, which they did particularly well throughout most of the game. However Kenilworth carelessly strayed offside. The subsequently successful penalty kick at goal gave the home side a 3 points lead after 18 minutes of play. Buoyed by their hard earned lead, the home side took the game back into the Kenilworth half. With a lot of the play around the 22, Kenilworth defended effectively, eventually securing a turnover penalty against DK for ‘holding on’. Kenilworth bit by bit worked their way up to the home side 22. During one such attempted attack, Kenilworth were pulled up for accidental offside. From the resultant scrum, the DK No 8 went to pick up but Kenilworth scrum half Gareth Renowden, making a nuisance of himself, spoiled the No8’s pick up resulting in Kenilworth ‘stealing’ the ball. A number of strong, close running attacks from Kenilworth, involving both forwards and backs saw Kenilworth edge closer and closer to the try line. DK bowed to the significant pressure being placed upon their defence and conceded another penalty close in. Renowden, quickly took hold of the ball, tapped the penalty and darted over a few yards in from the left hand corner flag for Kenilworth’s first try (and the 150th of his Kenilworth career). Although the conversion was missed, Kenilworth had got some reward for their efforts and led 5-3.
A really tight but good game was developing with both sides looking to put the ball through the hands, utilising both forwards and backs. Whilst DK often looked to get the ball wide early, Kenilworth’s defence was as effective on the flanks as it was through the middle of the park or at close quarters. DK were occasionally having problems with their lineout ball, something that the hard working front row forward Luke Truslove and flanker Sam Harrison took advantage of. Truslove anticipated well an overthrown line out ball and made good yards towards the DK 22. As did Sam Harrison when he too stole a lose lineout ball. Unfortunately the DK scrum half, in his attempt to halt the storming run of Harrison, hit his head and a few minutes later had to leave the field of play. Harrison’s run gave Kenilworth continued momentum as they went through a series of pick and drives and good attacks with the backs too moving the ball through the hands. Unfortunately, Kenilworth were unable find the gap or breach the defence to get some reward. Instead, just a few minutes later, DK got themselves back deep in the Kenilworth half. Kenilworth again defended well but one such tackle was deemed high by the referee and was penalised. With the kick at goal successful, Kenilworth found themselves a point down at half time 5-6.
During the early minutes of the second half play was very much a mid-pitch affair with both sides working hard to re-establish control. A few minutes in, Kenilworth were awarded a penalty almost on the half way line. With points likely to be at a premium Cruickshank opted to have a shot at goal. Whilst on target it fell short and was comfortably fielded by DK. Fortunately for Kenilworth, the clearance kick was ‘shanked’ into touch with little ground made by DK. The subsequent line out was won by Kenilworth and the ball moved left across the park. In the process, DK gave away a further penalty for obstruction. Renowden took another quick tap and kept Kenilworth’s attacking momentum going. A number of strong drives and close passing saw flanker Sam Harrison dart over and run behind the posts for Kenilworth’s second try. Unfortunately the relatively easy conversion was missed. However, Kenilworth now led 10-6.
As to be expected, DK came straight back at Kenilworth and pressed them deep in their 22. With the away side now under pressure, a penalty for ‘coming in at the side’ was awarded against them. The kick successful, Kenilworth’s advantage of having scored 2 tries was quickly reduced to the single point lead. 10-9.
This spurred DK on further, putting Kenilworth under real pressure by seeking to attack wide and quickly but also taking the ball forward close in and through the middle. However, Kenilworth’s defence stood strong and DK’s pressure was repelled. With around 20 minutes left to play, the pressure was starting to show physically with some players. Ed Hannam left the field of play for treatment before he returned to replace injured Nyle Beckett. Subsequent changes saw Tom Naismith move from the back row to the wing. Dave Bromfield on for Harry Abell (who later returned to replace Hooker Luke Truslove) and Connor Burnet on for Nick Gerber.
DK continued with their pressure seeking to move the ball wide and quickly with a long miss pass which was intercepted by scrum half Renowden who cleared downfield. A great chase by Cruickshank meant that play had quickly switched from one 22 to the other. Having to suddenly now defend, DK gave away another penalty which Kenilworth kicked to the corner. A second penalty at the lineout was awarded to Kenilworth. Following a good catch and drive and a series of close in plays the ball was moved through quick and close hands to skipper Bobby Thompson who crossed the DK try line to run in behind the posts to score Kenilworth’s third try of the day. This time converted by Cruickshank, Kenilworth now led 17-9.
Just a couple of minutes later, DK trying hard to move the ball away from their 22, but being constrained by an advancing Kenilworth defence, gave away a Penalty in front of the posts. Converted by Cruickshank, Kenilworth moved to a more comfortable, yet still ‘nervy’ score line of 20-9.
DK, as expected, with the clock ticking, fought hard to get a score back and to get within bonus point territory. Kenilworth’s defence stood strong and the large vocal away support thought the game was to be concluded when Kenilworth quickly drove back a ‘last play’ DK scrum. Unfortunately, a stray Kenilworth boot on the ball gifted DK a penalty, which they kicked to the corner. A good catch and drive saw them go through a handful of phases before touching down for their first try and a bonus point that kept them top of the league. With the final whistle going immediately after the successful conversion, Kenilworth had come out on top of an extremely good game of rugby between two good sides. The three tries to one final score of 20-16 was much closer than it needed to be had Kenilworth converted all their tries and penalty kicks at goal.
Credit should go to both sides who ‘gave it their all’ and did so in a committed but fair manner with there being little or no foul play, no yellow cards issued and no side marched back 10 yards for dissent.
Kenilworth are without a league game next week but return to Glasshouse Lane on Saturday 1st February when they face Hereford. Kickoff is at 2.15pm and your support would be more than welcome.