The stiff tests are coming thick and fast over the next few weeks for the boys from Glasshouse Lane and this fixture at Hereford was the toughest yet, writes Ralph Murray.
The opening exchanges saw the home side go straight into attack mode and this was to be the theme for the next 20 minutes. Despite the battering being taken, the Kenilworth line held firm and the game remained scoreless throughout the first quarter of the match. During this period there were some truly heroic performances from the visitors with Sheehan particularly dominant in midfield and forcing some key turnovers.
Injuries to the Kenilworth team were to be an unwanted feature of this game and right on 20 minutes came the first of these; Renowden – Mr Commitment – suffered what looked like a muscle tear and his day’s work was done. This forced a re-organisation around the half-backs with Selby back at his customary 9 and the impressive Sheehan at outside half and debutant Seb Corby coming into the centre. Almost immediately after this change the pressure finally told and Herford recorded their first try with almost 25 minutes gone. Right from the restart Kenilworth tried to get something going on offence but in their enthusiasm perhaps decisions were rushed and a spilt ball in midfield gave the ball back to Hereford. Slick hands by the Hereford backs were a defining feature of the game and this turnover provided a fine example of how they could convert defence into attack quickly; the full-back taking the final pass to score in the corner and the score had quickly moved on to 12-0.
Stung by these two rapid scores, Kenilworth attacked from the restart and made good ground to the 22 before Lowthian smashed through the home defence to get within 5m of the line. Multiple offside calls against the home defence finally resulted in a penalty kick which Kendall converted to put the visitors on the scoreboard. But this proved a temporary lull as the restart produced a set scrum from where the Herford forwards produced a fine move to put the open side flanker over near the posts and a rout looked on the cards. Kenilworth were now desperately trying to get back onto the front foot and fly half Sheehan found a good touch 25m out but the ensuing attack saw Selby attempt to chip the defence but the pass was intercepted and the impressive Herford backs worked the ball to the right wing to score again. The successful conversion made the score 26-3, and a first half bonus point for the home side.
As in previous games, the spirit of Kenilworth shines through even in the darkest times and from the restart they used possession well and built the phases well before Gibson, continuing his excellent season form, scythed through the defence from second receiver and got to within 3m. A number of pick-and-drives saw Hereford encroach and, with advantage being played, Dan Roberts crashed over from short range for the visitors’ first try, Kendall successfully converted and the score was back to 26-10 as half-time was signalled.
Kenilworth re-started with debutant Cov Uni student Freddie Mills on in place of Dan Roberts. From the restart, Hereford were immediately on the attack and looked to have a certain try but outstanding defence kept them out. Good work again from Sheehan who looked to counter and the ball was moved to Dodd who carried well to breach the Hereford defence but his offload was taken by a Hereford player and the momentum was lost. The next 10 minutes saw Kenilworth win some good possession and they attempted to attack at every opportunity but so often the final pass, or a poor decision, ended the move. Centre Ed Hannam then became the next casualty with a damaged shoulder and Jack Gibson moved to the centre with Dan Roberts returning in the back row.
Despite this their efforts were undiminished but with some key decision-makers missing and players out of position it was always going to be difficult against such well-drilled opponents. One such Hereford counter by the mightily impressive Goodall resulted in him converting his own excellent try to make the score 33-10. The game lost some if its tempo for the next 10-15 minutes as the result seemed certain and some tired bodies needed to recover. The deadlock was finally broken by another impressive display of ball handling by the Hereford backs to send out the scoring to 40-10. There was then yet another injury, not sustained from contact with a Hereford player, but the referee – Alex Selby taking an accidental ‘blow’ and having to retire. Yet another re-shuffle saw Nick Collett return and Seb Corby reverting to scrum-half where he performed very well indeed. Soon after some superb work and interplay by the forwards resulted in a final try for Jake Dodd, well deserved for a superb performance. Kenilworth finished the game with fourteen players when Freddie Mills had to retire with another shoulder injury.
The score-line, although lopsided, does not tell the full story of this performance. Kenilworth were beaten by a better side – of that there is no doubt. But, short of some key decision makers and with a succession of injuries which necessitated constant re-organisation, the defensive effort was truly outstanding. Although they came away with no points for their afternoon’s work the experience will be priceless in preparing these young players for the challenges ahead. The promising debuts of Seb Corby and Freddie Mills will stand us in good stead for the coming weeks.
Next week, Whitchurch at home, 2.15 kick off.
The pics for the game can be accessed at