KENILWORTH RUGBY FOOTBALL CLUB
With seven games of this campaign remaining, Kenilworth travelled to Evesham on Saturday, securing a 39-5 victory at Blind Lane, writes Willie Whitesmith.
There was plenty of touch line support (and guidance) for Kenilworth who were looking to maintain their eight-point cushion at the top of the table. In good conditions and a light wind Evesham were clearly up for the game and looking to spoil Kenilworth’s push for promotion.
With the referee starting the game a few minutes early, Evesham started by harassing Kenilworth and turning the visitors at every opportunity. The hosts successfully managed to force Kenilworth into a knock on and some early basic errors. This eventually led, on 13 minutes, to Evesham exiting their own half and following a penalty and line out they rucked and drove at the Kenilworth line for an unconverted forwards try and a 5-0 lead.
With Kenilworth looking a little flat, Evesham continued to challenge the offside line in disrupting Kenilworhth’s efforts. However, the visitors managed to keep in the game through some excellent tackling, especially from Rhidian Booth, Harry Abell, Dave Bromfield and the supporting forwards.
On 23 minutes, a scrum followed by a kick & chase took Kenilworth into the Evesham half but winger Ollie Burman was tackled into touch near the left hand corner. From the resultant line out Kenilworth applied further pressure and the Evesham scrum half could only clear to the 22. Kenilworth then had a line out of their own which they caught and drove, and the well-controlled driving maul was rewarded with an unconverted try for Abell.
During the next five minutes Kenilworth slowly began to exert some pressure, managing to drive Evesham back. The visitors then won turnover ball and following good interaction between forwards and backs Bobby Thompson crashed over on 37 minutes to make it 10-5 to Kenilworth at the break.
At the half time, Head Coach David Ellis took the opportunity to extend the huddle, keeping Evesham waiting for a good minute. One can only imagine he wasn’t talking about the weather. Needless to say a different Kenilworth side emerged for the second half.
Kenilworth kicked off and chased, winning a line out on the Evesham 22. Unfortunately, following resolute tackling by Kenilworth, Sam Harrison suffered a dead leg and was replaced by Nick Gerber. Evesham managed to exit and the Evesham centre glided through the visitors’ defence before being excellently tackled by Charlie Stevens to snuff out the danger.
On 48 minutes Josh Emery went off, with Gareth Renowden coming on at scrum half with Alex Selby moving to fly half. Kenilworth began to exert more pressure and on 49 minutes they were awarded a penalty which Ed Hannam converted to extend their lead to 13-5.
At the subsequent restart Kenilworth exited superbly and following a line out, good hands by Hannam and Garrett Bell led to an inside pass to Gareth Renowden who scored near the posts. Hannam again added the extras.
On 57 minutes, following sustained pressure by the visitors, a kick was fielded by full back Bell near halfway who tore through the Evesham defence. He then passed on to Rhys Jones who scored the bonus point try under the posts. Another Hannam conversion made it 27-5.
Evesham were visibly tiring and Kenilworth were now attacking with more purpose. What followed was a good exit and break by Tondi Mpambawashe, a good kick through and a line out on the Evesham 22. On 68 minutes good tackling and control from Kenilworth resulted in Evesham running out of defenders and Thompson strolled in for his second try, unopposed, in front of the posts. The two points from Hannam gave Kenilworth a 34-5 lead with 70 minutes played.
As the match entered the final 10 minutes, another good exit saw Mikkel Anderson catching and driving through some tired tackles and taking play to halfway. Abell was then replaced by Jack Read at hooker and on 73 minutes, relentless pressure was rewarded when the ball was turned over on halfway. Thompson swerved round the blindside and sneaked into the Evesham 22 where two tired tacklers were pushed aside as the number eight scored his hat trick and Kenilworth’s sixth try of the afternoon as the match finished 39-5 in Kenilworth’s favour.
The game finished a few minutes later and Evesham are to be applauded for their first 20 minutes but ultimately they lost discipline and when the game broke up Kenilworth were far too efficient. With six games remaining, and with Old Laurentian and Kidderminster both winning, Kenilworth go into their next league game at home on Saturday 2nd March against Southam with an eight-point advantage.