Kenilworth fall at final hurdle in Malvern thriller
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Kenilworth started 2018 with a narrow 37-31 defeat to Malvern at Glasshouse Lane on Saturday, but there were many positives for the side to take from their performance. Despite the result, the match was a stark contrast from their 57-24 defeat in the reverse fixture earlier in the season, writes Sophie Freestone.
With Kenilworth looking to close the gap on their Worcestershire opponents it was the hosts that scored the first points of the afternoon. Fly half Alex Selby was successful with a penalty kick from in front of the posts to give his side a 3-0 lead after ten minutes of play.
Possession then switched between the two sides and Malvern looked threatening but Kenilworth staved off the pressure from the visitors to extend their lead as the half hour mark approached. Scrum half Gareth Renowden read the play superbly and intercepted the ball on half way before touching down under the posts for the first try of the afternoon. Selby duly added the extras to give Kenilworth a ten-point advantage.
Malvern responded within minutes, however, finally scoring a try on the left wing after multiple attempts were ruled out. The ball was moved through the hands and winger Luke Milton was on hand to score the try. The conversion from former Gloucester Rugby full back Rob Cook drifted wide of the uprights and the sides went in at half with Kenilworth five points up.
The hosts then had the perfect start to the second half when centre Rhys Jones finished a move on the right with Kenilworth showing great hands to take the ball over the line and extend their lead. Selby once again slotted the conversion to take his side into a 17-5 advantage.
However, once again, it didn't take Malvern long to respond, with Glen Potter burrowing over after a well-worked catch and drive. The missed conversion ensured Kenilworth held a seven-point cushion.
That try signalled the opening of the floodgates for Malvern, with Cook scoring his first points of the match shortly after through a penalty before Liam Roleston nudged his side ahead for the first time. It was another catch and drive that saw the visitors cross the Kenilworth line with Cook adding the extras to extend his side's lead to 20-17.
Malvern's three-point lead soon became a 10-point advantage when Tom Hale successfully chased a kick downfield. The winger touched down in the right corner as the match entered the final quarter to secure the bonus point before Cook slotted the conversion.
The ten-point deficit didn't dampen Kenilworth's spirits however, with Mikkel Andresen powering over the line by the posts. Strong running from young centre Charlie Stevens had taken his side up to the line, with Andresen scoring and Selby adding another conversion to cut the gap to just three points.
Kenilworth then retook the lead with a fourth try, securing the bonus point, when Ollie Burman crossed. Selby's conversion ensured his side went into the final ten minutes with a four-point cushion.
It wasn't to be, however, with Malvern adding a fifth try just minutes later through Hale which was followed by another successful conversion from Cook. That gave Malvern a 34-31 lead before a 75th minute drop goal from Cook sealed the victory.
Speaking after the match to GlasshouseTV, Kenilworth's senior coach Chris Whitehead said: "We knew it needed to be attritional and at times we looked on top.
"We're very disappointed to get a loss but the positives massively outweigh the negatives."
Kenilworth are back in action on Saturday when they travel to Nuneaton Old Edwardians for their second league fixture of 2018. Kick off is at 2:15pm.