With Rectory Fields bathed in bright sunshine and the temperature hovering around 15°C, it seemed the most perfect Autumn day for Kenilworth’s young side to kick-start their season and get a good result against a resilient home side. The game, however, had not read the script – in fact it hadn’t read any script!

The omens were not good from the opening kick-off; Bedworth’s first attack in the opening minute would have led to a certain score but for the final pass being dropped on the goal line. Play was brought back for an earlier penalty and, from the ensuing touch-kick and maul, Bedworth opened their account with a short drive putting tight-head Allison over the line. Bedworth’s next possession saw winger Croft put a grubber kick down into the Kenilworth 22 which Ollie Burman seemed to have covered. But the awkward bounce saw the ball go over the Kenilworth goal line and Croft, following his own kick, was awarded the score although it seemed that Andy Whitehall had got his hand to it first.

The next 10 minutes saw Kenilworth mount a series of promising attacks but, each time, small errors resulted in the move fizzling out or possession being turned over. Kenilworth was tested time and time again defensively but a key difference between the two sides was emphasised by the third try – patience! Bedworth ground their way to the Kenilworth 22 and set up a series of rucks in the middle of the field; initially no real forward progress was being made but the Bedworth forwards stuck to the task and their patience was rewarded with flanker Randle going over for his first of the afternoon. With fly-half Foster kicking the extras and an additional penalty, Kenilworth found themselves down by 24 unanswered points with barely a quarter of an hour gone!

Now most sides, finding themselves in such a hopeless position, may well have adopted a “damage-limitation” approach but not this young Kenilworth side. Teams in this position need a break and Kenilworth got theirs with just over 20 minutes gone. Bedworth were in position and looking to extend their lead but Foster’s long pass was picked off by Phil Dickson who charged up the field unopposed to score under the posts. Bedworth were now showing some nerves with fumbled restarts and other errors creeping in and, from one such error, Ks were awarded a penalty which they ran quickly. The attack resulted in a probing touch kick within 10m of the Bedworth line and, following the lineout, Kenilworth secured possession and a series of plays later saw Cresswell touch down in the corner. Tom Kendall had kicked both conversions but five minutes before the half he elected to kick a penalty from almost the half-way line and a long way out towards the touchline. Never in doubt – he could have gone back another 5m and still made it!

Incredibly the Ks had dragged themselves back from the 24 point deficit and were now within 4 points of the hosts. With the half winding down, an attempted Bedworth kick was charged down and Kenilworth recovered the ball and some swift hands from Andy Whitehall put Adam Clifford in for the go-ahead score. Tom Kendall again converted and, incredibly, with 40 minutes on the clock, Kenilworth had transformed a 24-point deficit into a 3-point lead. The first-half action was completed with a Bedworth penalty sending the sides into the break all square at 27 all – breathtaking!

Momentum is one of sport’s great intangibles – Kenilworth’s outstanding comeback at the end of the first half would normally have resulted in their taking the game to Bedworth at the start of the second half but both sides started nervously. It was almost as if neither side wanted to make the first move and hand the initiative to the other. After a dour opening 10 minutes in the second half in which both sides made repeated errors the stalemate was finally broken with a chip kick from the Bedworth 9 being poorly dealt with by the Ks defence. From the ensuing possession Bedworth drove the ball on a number of phases which eventually led to Randle scoring his second try of the day near the posts. With a successful conversion and an exchange of penalties to follow, the game was poised at 43-30 with a quarter of an hour to play.

What could have been a pivotal moment occurred in the 65th minute with Bedworth hooker Jenkins sent off for a tip-tackle on Tom Nicolson. Once the ensuing disagreement amongst the opposing forwards had settled down, the referee explained what he had seen to the Bedworth captain and issued the red card.

Despite the home side being down to 14 men Kenilworth were unable to take advantage and the final act of the game saw the Bedworth flanker Randle score his third try of a productive afternoon. The successful conversion gave the home side the half-century that seemed unlikely at half time.

Despite what the scoreline suggests Kenilworth continued probing at every opportunity but they were confounded by a combination of good Bedworth defence and poor decision making when in possession. Bedworth were a well-organised outfit but Kenilworth could have got more out of this game and it certainly wasn’t due to a lack of commitment that they found themselves behind. On many occasions Kenilworth showed great flair and imagination with the ball in hand but these moves often ended prematurely with a misdirected kick rather than looking for another pass option. This is a young side with commitment and enthusiasm in spades but patience and sound decision making must be allied to these admirable qualities to produce the kind of results they’re capable of. Next week’s home fixture against Camp Hill would seem the perfect opportunity to bring it all together.  

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