A week is a long time in Rugby football and this was aptly demonstrated in this fixture at Oxford Rd, Banbury. 7 days previously, the Glasshouse Lane faithful had been basking in the glory of a truly outstanding performance and the goodly crowd that travelled to Banbury were hopeful of more of the same, writes Ralph Murray.
Kenilworth made the first 3 attacking moves of the match inside the first 10 minutes but all came to nought because of unforced errors or turnovers. Banbury then created their first real chance but inexplicably kicked ahead when ball-in-hand promised the better return. The kick was grounded by Kendall who then cleared his lines. Kicking was to become a feature of the Banbury game plan and from one such nudge the ball was gathered by Middleton who offloaded to Lowthian who charged up the centre and set the ball for the next phase. 3 quick phases later and Middleton goes over in the corner and, from the worst possible angle, Kendall adds the 2.
From the kick-off Flowers made a great take and charged up the field before presenting well for the following pack; an infringement gave Kendall another shot at goal but the ball fell short and as Banbury attempted to clear, Todd was adjudged to have arrived late with the tackle and was shown the yellow card.
There then followed a poor passage of play from both sides with mishandling, poor tackling and a general lack of precision in all that was attempted. Some decisions were hard to fathom and this added to the poor spectacle but it was the home side who made the most of one of the few chances with the scrum-half making a jinking break and putting the winger over to score. This was closely followed by some uncharacteristically poor defence from Kenilworth which gave the home side an opportunity to take the lead but the pen fell short.
The momentum had definitely shifted, helped by the extra man, but a timely intercept by Norton put Middleton away with 50m to go and the defence closing. Outstanding support by Renowden saw him collect the offload to score and another sweet strike from Kendall increased the Ks lead. Almost from the kick off another strange offside call against Ks gave an opportunity for a Banbury attack but this was brought to an abrupt halt by a shuddering tackle from O’Brien. Banbury retained possession but more great work from Flowers at the breakdown resulted in an attacking lineout 10m from the Banbury line. But the lineout, which has been such a threat for Kenilworth this year, was not clicking and the opportunity went begging.
The second half opened with a Kendall penalty and the hope that the hairdryer was put to good use during the half-time talk. Clearly mischief was afoot as the Public Address congratulated Johnny Cresswell on another successful kick! Ks had a new lease of life now and a good lineout take saw a good rolling maul formed which trundled toward the line before being brought down a metre short. Inexplicably no penalty was awarded and the ensuing scrum saw the home side reeling but again nothing given. The ball was eventually spun left but the ball was lost in the tackle and the chance was gone.
Kenilworth were now in their best form of the match but were being frustrated by some very liberal interpretation of the offside line. Line breaks in situations like these are priceless but so often Kenilworth were guilty of not offloading to make full use of the advantage. Finally one such breach of the laws is punished and Thompson took a quick tap and found Lowthian who continues his fine season with yet another score. Now the game’s afoot and Ks hit their stride with some really fine hands and good support play. A ruck is set up 3m out but the move is halted for a penalty when Ks are adjudged to have crossed in the ruck. Ks are not dissuaded and continue to run the ball at every opportunity with Lowthian, now at second receiver, putting Kendall away for a run to the line. Norton, backing up well, takes the inside pass to slice the defence and score under the posts. Norton scored his second soon after; another great gather from Middleton saw him freeze the defence with a step inside before offloading to the New Zealander to slide over in the corner. Kendall finally missed one with the conversion going astray in what was the final act of the afternoon.
What promised to be a dire experience provided s some very real plus points; Kenilworth were playing well below par and not imposing their game on a team they should beat but they fixed it. Some of the officiating was questionable but they must adjust to these situations quickly. Dodd was immense, Flowers had his best game in a senior shirt and Lowthian continues his outstanding form. The second half of the season beckons and the experiences, good and bad, will provide the boys with useful ammo for the challenges ahead.