While it would be wide of the mark to say that Kenilworth should have won this contest between two teams relegated from National Three Midlands last season, with sounder defence and better discipline, they could have done. Their Achilles heel, conceding tries in quick succession, this term hitherto usually surfacing in the final quarter, made an earlier but fortunately less-damaging appearance, in an otherwise unremarkable and overall fairly even contest under floodlights at Glasshouse Lane (writes Bob Jones).
For the second week in succession, the Ks were hit by a sucker punch within a couple of minutes of the first whistle; centre Lewis Brooks having no difficulty in finishing a quick move that took place amidst defensive disorganization and a flurry of missed first-tackles. Fortunately, guided by the probing kicks of Dave Johnston, they quickly re-entered planet Earth and began to compete effectively. Burton were rattled and began to concede penalties, from the first of which, Tom Kendall hit a post. Little was seen of the threequarters at this stage, and it was Chris Wood, Phil Dickson and Jonny Cresswell who caught the eye in attacking moves. Cresswell then made a massive hit and Adam Clifford saved what looked like a certain touch-down from a deft kick-ahead, to stop threatening advances by the men from Peel Croft, who were gradually gaining control. However, when they first failed to release the ball, then strayed offside, Kendall punished them penalty goals that took Kenilworth into the lead on the half-hour. In the final minutes of the half, Burton lost their scrum-half Jake Manning with a leg injury, and the hosts Nyle Beckett to a yellow card, after he had come into a ruck from the side, as the Staffordshire outfit continued to press. Their defensive frailties already exposed, it was no surprise that the man advantage soon told. Centre Dave Archer received the ball in his own half and proceeded to waltz through the cover to the line, then converted his try. Almost immediately, with a stretched defence all at sea, Brooks collected his second try, to make the score 6-17 at the interval.
Worse was to follow soon after the start of the second half. With Beckett still in the sin-bin, a sweeping move was finished in style by Brooks, to complete his hat-trick. Nick Collett was introduced in place of Chris Muncaster after 10 minutes, and immediately brought both his physical presence and experience to bear on the contest. Matters improved for the Ks. With Johnston a constant threat with both boot and ball in hand, and Jamie Peacock lively around the scrums, they mounted concerted pressure. A tap-and-go by Peacock made good inroads, as did a thundering charge by Catalin-Andre Graur. Another tap-penalty by Graur close to the visitors line paid dividends, as he barrelled his way over for a try, converted by Kendall after 18 minutes. As the game entered its final quarter, coach Richard Gibson replaced Sam Flowers with Bobby Thompson. The home momentum was maintained but Burton also raised their game, and the contest became some what fractious. Wood pulled off a great tackle to stop a move that looked ominous and Jack Gibson was never far from the action. As added time approached, a reversed penalty, awarded for what appeared to be back-chat, enabled Kendall to add to his tally with a goal. This was soon negated by one from Archer to restore the lead. Johnston was forced to retire with a leg injury, Jake Povey coming on. It was all Kenilworth at the death, as they went flat-out for a losing bonus point. In their opponents 22, with a free ball to come, they mounted six unsuccessful drives to the line before the referee brought play back for Kendall to slot the penalty goal that achieved their end.
Kenilworth: Graur, Cresswell (Capt), Muncaster, Lane, Flowers, Dickson, Gibson, Wood, Peacock, Johnston, Beckett, Noon, Purewal, Clifford, Kendall. Replacements: Collett, Thompson, Povey.