Kenilworth reach Shield final with warrior-like Spartans victory
Kenilworth overcame a strong and competitive Spartans side on Sunday to reach the final of the Warwickshire Shield with a last-gasp 21-19 victory, writes Bruce Doe.
It was a display of skill, commitment and sheer dogged determination, and although short of a few first team regulars, Kenilworth still managed to field a strong competitive squad against an equally dogged and determined Spartans.
The game started with a hail storm and Kenilworth immediately put pressure on the Sutton Coldfield side's line through the forwards. Spartans endured that early pressure before the roles then reversed. Continued pressure and a drive from their pack, with the occasional involvement of their three quarters, resulted in Spartans touching down near to the corner through Matt Southam for the first try of the match. The conversion was missed in squally conditions to keep their lead at 5-0.
Kenilworth responded soon after following a series of drives towards the Spartans line with space created on the left. The ball was shipped through three pairs of hands to winger Hector Smith who finished well to touch down in the corner. Alex Selby's missed conversion kept the scores level at 5-5.
More Kenilworth pressure followed but their efforts were only rewarded with a single penalty from fly half Selby. That gave Kenilworth a slender three-point lead at half time.
Following the re-start Kenilworth were soon on the score sheet once more after a sustained period of pressure where both backs and forwards made in roads towards the Spartans try line. A penalty and resultant line out win saw the hard-working Nick Gerber, with the help of his pack, drive over for Kenilworth’s second try, which remained unconverted once again. That try extended Kenilworth's lead to 13-5.
Spartans responded well, however, and got themselves back into the game again mostly as a consequence of their forwards driving effectively at Kenilworth. Bit by bit they edged closer to the try line and eventually touched down near to posts, once again through Southam. The conversion from Thomas Hardy closed the gap to just a single point.
At 13-12, Kenilworth realised the need to try and take the game back to Spartans. As a consequence of pressure in and around the opposition twenty two, their efforts were rewarded with another successful penalty from Selby. However, with the score at 16-12 Kenilworth's nerves kicked in and their concern was compounded when Spartans yet again put Kenilworth under considerable pressure. While the Glasshouse Lane outfit displayed great courage and commitment in the tackle and in defence, it was only a matter of time before Spartans scored a try through Perry Bates-Powell near to the posts. Hardy added the extras to establish a 16-19 lead for his side.
Kenilworth reacted superbly, however, aided by the return of powerful back rower Mikel Andresen who put everything into achieving what went on to become the game-clinching score. With less than ten minutes remaining, Spartans chose to see the game out by keeping it within their forwards. While they achieved a series of phases, it was inevitable that it would come to an abrupt end, and that's exactly what happened with Kenilworth turning the ball over through Selby.
This was the opportunity for Kenilworth to turn the tables and following a series of pick and drives, Mikel Andresen went over in the corner much to the delight of the Kenilworth supporters. Although the try was unconverted and a restart was required, Kenilworth held on to successfully see the game out and secure a 21-19 victory.
That result sees Kenilworth's 1st XV join their 2nd XV in reaching the final of a competition this season, with the 1st XV taking on Midlands 2 West (South) rivals Earlsdon.
This was a really good, well refereed, competitive and fair game of rugby between two sides who worked extremely hard and played with real honesty and commitment. Kenilworth just edged the encounter mainly because of their extremely strong defence, their ability to retain the ball that little bit better than their opponents and really good use of the bench.
A special mention should go to Adam Turner who only weeks away from his 40th birthday made his 1st XV debut when he came as a replacement towards the end. His 60 second appearance was completely faultless........
Well done lads – both our 1st and 2nd XV are now in the final of their respective competitions!