“To begin at the beginning: it is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible black, the cobbled streets silent” - broken only by the sound of Kenilworth Pirates spilling out of the coach after a long and emotional journey at the start of their annual tour. On a weekend when all home games were cancelled, the Kenilworth veterans travelled the breadth of the country to Tenby, the land of Dylan Thomas. They were rewarded with an entertaining and high scoring fixture; albeit playing largely against themselves.
A few short hours after their arrival, the Pirates were back on the coach travelling to the pitch at Laugharne, Dylan Thomas’s home village. Thomas described the village as “beautiful, timeless and barmy” - a partially accurate description of the match that followed. The host club Tenby United were unable to raise a full team, so were reinforced by several Pirates, but the home team players clearly had substantial experience and skill – in particular Puku Faletau , uncle of welsh international Toby, and a Tongan international with many caps in his own right
Kenilworth started strongly, pressing the Tenby line without being able to cross, until a neat back move opened up a gap for Paul Fountain to crash though and score near the posts, duly converted by Chris Sibley.
The next score was initiated by Will O’Meara, guesting for Tenby – who off-loaded to Faletau. There then followed the spectacle of Pirates fly half Paddy Flavelle chasing the Tongan flanker down the pitch, fruitlessly aiming repeated tackles, each of which was effectively swatted off. Eventually Faletau became tired of the game and passed on to Ed Hart, another Tenby guest, who duly scored an unconverted try. Shortly afterwards, Flavelle made partial amends, jinking over after some creative handling skills for a try that Sibley converted.
Kenilworth players continued to dominate the scoring, although not always in Pirates colours. Jai Purewal rounded of a move that included his trademark “between the legs tour pass” and, almost inevitably, Faletau. The Tongan flanker then went on to score a try himself. The Pirates were unfortunate to concede once more shortly afterwards whilst Jez Noon was off with a head injury; Tenby exploiting the unguarded wing to make the half time score 24-14 to the home side.
Re-grouping at half time Kenilworth had clearly recognised the robust and physical approach of the Tenby side and Faletau in particular – but still allowed the flanker to go under the posts unopposed from a short penalty. However when it would have been easy to crumble, the Pirates bounced back, firstly with a well worked try by Andy Fox after good work by Sibley and then the oddest try of the day. Breaking out from defence Yann Lawrence kicked ahead into open field, where Pete Roberts and Andy Povey, further Tenby guests, seemed to have it covered. However confusion reigned. Povey adopted a most unusual line of running, heading vaguely towards the corner flag and increasingly away from the ball itself. As a result Lawrence was able to run through to collect the ball and score – whilst Paddy Flavelle was left to rue the fact that after so much good early work, he was clearly destined not to win the parrot award on this occasion.
At 31-26 to the home side, there was still much rugby to be played, Will O’Meara scored a further try for Tenby and Wayne Morgan, cutting back in the centre using strong hand-offs, reduced the deficit once more.
In tune with the end to end nature of the match, played in front of a small but appreciative crowd, the Tenby scrum half effectively sealed a home victory with a short range dive over following a maul. There was just time for Chris Sibley to round off a 70 metre Kenilworth move with a try under the posts, converting himself to make the final score 41 – 36 to the home side.
Kenilworth players scored 9 tries in this game but unfortunately too many of them were scored in the visitors’ colours. The match was the focal point of yet another successful tour – thanks to the experienced organisation of Bennett, Ballinger and Flavelle and a warm welcome from the hosts.