KENILWORTH RUGBY FOOTBALL CLUB
Kenilworth's fine run of form continued on Sunday as they reached the final of the Warwickshire 1st XV Shield with a 31-24 win over Spartans at Berkswell & Balsall, writes Peter Jones.
On a bright sunny day, the Kenilworth pack struggled against Spartans in the scrum, but their superior fitness and athleticism ultimately told as they progressed to the final.
The early stages saw Kenilworth have difficulty containing the more powerful Spartans pack on the sloped pitch, conceding an early converted try to find themselves seven points down within a few moments.
Kenilworth quickly came back into the game, however, with superb pressure from winger Ollie Sharples. From the resulting lineout, Tom Naismith managed to win the ball and the inspirational and ever industrious captain, Bobby Thompson, scored to narrow the gap to 5-7.
Infringements for the breakdown and offsides saw Kenilworth gift Spartans a raft of penalties to Spartans, and this stopped Kenilworth procuring any continuity of possession. Subsequently, a further converted try for Spartans put them into a 5-14 lead.
Kenilworth responded with a fine attack, again led by Captain Marvel Thompson, linking with Sharples and Gareth Renowden for a great team try which was ably finished by Josh O’Brien. Thompson then added a further try which was converted to give Kenilworth a 17-14 lead at half time.
At the break, full back Rhys Jones was substituted through injury to be replaced by the experienced Jimmy Middleton. Chris Pemble also took to the field for a brief cameo appearance after an injury to Jack Read, swapping his characteristic flip flops for rugby boots for the first time this season. Mark Wylie later joined the fray to bolster the front row.
A further penalty conceded by Kenilworth led to Spartans bringing the score to 17-17 before some great work by second-row Josh Fox (who contributed tirelessly to the Kenilworth cause all day, with a stellar performance) produced a further try from Renowden, converted by Ed Hannam.
Kenilworth then went down to 14 men with Harry Abell spending 10 minutes in the bin after persistent off-sides, but Tom Naismith added a further try, again converted by Hannam, to push Kenilworth’s lead to 31-17.
Kenilworth’s disfavour with the referee continued with prop Rhidian Booth also receiving a yellow card and the depleted Kenilworth side conceded a further try cut their lead to lead 31-24.
Ultimately, they showed their characteristic grit and held on to progress to the Warwickshire Shield Final, where they will now face either Earlsdon or Pinley.
Once again, Kenilworth’s superior fitness carried them through the day, particularly the athleticism of the second-row combination of Naismith and Fox, despite their largesse in penalties conceded to the other side.
Post-match, Head Coach Dave Ellis nominated Thompson as man of the match, describing him as “doing the work of three men”, echoing that of another heroic captain's performance the previous day!