New season, new division, nearly-new team, familiar result. Kenilworth, relegated from National Three Midlands last term to Midlands One West this, and containing a large number of young players, derived from both their colts and more-junior local clubs, failed to record an initial victory against an impressive Old Halesonians side. Nonetheless, they could not be faulted for both enthusiasm and effort, and with some senior members of the squad still to return to action, should be able to hold their own at this level (writes Bob Jones).
With the advantage of a strong breeze, the home side opened brightly, with wing Nyle Beckett scorching towards the visitors line but then being penalized for not releasing the ball. A clever punt to touch in the corner by fly-half Russ Clarke was countered by an equally intelligent quick throw-in and clearance by Old Halesonians, who, however, were then forced to transgress in front of their posts, thereby enabling full-back Tom Kendall to open the scoring with a penalty goal on 11 minutes. Handling errors were frequent by both sides, with referee Billy Hadkiss adopting a somewhat liberal attitude to them. The Hagley-based outfit gradually began to take control by virtue of both physicality and assured movements, and following a penalty to touch in the corner, their prop and captain Richard Taylor breached some indifferent defensive work to cross for a try, which full-back Chris Hooper converted after 17 minutes. It took good tackles by captain Gareth Renowden and Beckett to halt a further advance, but another episode of sloppy defending was punished after just three more minutes, with wing Luke Smith cantering over and Hooper adding the extras. Around the half-hour, the Ks struck back in rather fortunate circumstances. Renowden, who had gifted the ball to the opposition near their line, immediately made up for the mistake by gathering the clearance kick at close quarters and charging over near the posts, Kendall converting. The remaining play to the interval was scrappy, with another searing break by Beckett the highlight for the home side.
The opening exchanges of the second half were notable for a constant barrage of drives close to the Kenilworth line by the Old Halesonians pack, and excellent defence, with a man being held up before touch-down on no less than five occasions. The home No 8 Chris Wood, who had an impressive debut, was forced to retire injured after 15 minutes, Ollie Jones replacing him. The visitors renewed their attacks and, again with the assistance of some missed tackles, were rewarded when Smith crossed for his second converted try. Another maximum soon followed, with Taylor also notching a brace. Jez Noon was introduced in place of Beckett and Jake Dodd for Nick Collett. The Ks were now living off scraps. Runs by Kendall and wing Rob Bennett nearly bore fruit, before the redoubtable Renowden, now in a positional switch with Bennett, showed his class with a powerful run towards the Old Halesonians line, before offloading to hooker Chris Muncaster, who crossed in the corner for an unconverted try on 36 minutes. In time added by Mr Hadkiss, Hooper, who had an excellent afternoon all-round, popped over a penalty goal.
Kenilworth: Llewellyn, Muncaster, Collett, Dickson, Openshaw, Thompson, Roberts, Wood, Renowden (Capt), Clarke, Bennett, Purewal, Owen Beckett, Kendall. Replacements: Dodd, Noon, Jones.