Four-try Kenilworth in bonus-point win at Berkwell & Balsall
Kenilworth secured a much needed 22-14 victory away to Berkswell & Balsall on Saturday in bitterly cold and windy conditions, writes Bruce Doe.
Despite the match being at risk immediately prior to kick off due to the fast driving snow making visibility extremely difficult, the blizzard passed and it was the hosts that started the brightest.
With Kenilworth playing down the slope they were unable to secure early possession which resulted in Berkswell & Balsall recycling quickly along their back line to their right winger who went over in the corner for an early and well-worked converted score.
Kenilworth re-started and sought to make amends, driving hard at the hosts' defence. After a number of phases Kenilworth drove the opposition back to their try line and, despite an enthusiastic and committed defence, skipper Bobby Thompson drove over to quickly make amends for the early conceded try. Although the conversion was from out wide and in gusting winds, fly half Alex Selby converted to bring the scores level at 7-7.
Kenilworth continued to take the game to Berkswell & Balsall with both the forwards and backs regularly involved. Playing a simple approach game Kenilworth again drove towards the hosts' line with Thompson touching down for a second. This time his try remained unconverted to give Kenilworth a 12-7 advantage.
Berkswell & Balsall worked hard to get back into the game and almost touched down near to the left corner flag but a superb covering tackle from Thompson, who hauled the hosts' winger into touch, prevented a further score. Kenilworth then secured the line out to clear their lines and headed into the break with a five-point lead.
Mindful of the cold and its effect on the players, the referee quickly re-started the game for the second half and it was Kenilworth who took the initiative early on with good handling and driving. Thompson, Raj Bahey and Lloyd Phillips started the second half strongly with Charlie Stevens, who has had a very impressive first season at Kenilworth, also beginning the final forty well. He was the next man to add his name to the score sheet for Kenilworth, with his side's third try, but the conversion from Selby once again didn't hit the target in the driving cross field wind.
With around 20 minutes to go Kenilworth’s lead was now 17-7 and the visitors only had to wait a further five minutes to secure the bonus point. When possession was won by the forwards, the ball was moved across the field for Simon Tyler to step inside his man just inside the hosts' half and run in unmarked to score his side's fourth. The missed conversion left the score at 22-7 to Kenilworth.
Berkswell & Balsall continued to fight hard and got themselves deep into the Kenilworth 22, allowing their replacement and skilful running scrum half to step inside the Kenilworth defence and touch down near to the posts. The try was converted and the score was just reward for a hard working and spirited Berkswell & Balsall side, making the score 22-14. Kenilworth then saw out what remaining time there was and came close to scoring a fifth try through Chris Whitehead, but the player-coach was held up.
It was a performance of real grit and determination from Kenilworth after a difficult few weeks. Both sides faced the additional challenge of needing to field competitive sides for the 2nd XV Cup final the following day, although this was later postponed due to the subsequent overnight weather.
Kenilworth's victory sees them remain in third spot with Berkswell & Balsall now in one of the relegation places. Kenilworth are next in action on Saturday as they travel to Earlsdon who are seven points behind them in fourth.