Kenilworth 14 Lichfield 50
On the first really cold day of the season the League’s form team came calling at Glasshouse Lane and, despite the lopsided scoreline, there was much to admire from the home side.
Direct from the opening kick-off, Lichfield gave the earliest possible indication of the way they were to play and why they had completed every game this season with a maximum points haul. The forwards secured the position and wasted no time in getting the ball to the well-organised and pacey three-quarters who advanced the ball to the home 22 before finding the No 8 who straightened for the line with considerable speed. An outstanding chase back and tackle by Sheehan stopped the progress of the 8 just a metre short of the line but this was to prove a brief stay of execution as the ball was quickly recycled and good hands put the winger in at the opposite corner. A difficult conversion was successful and the visitors led 0-7 with barely 2 minutes played. Before the scoreboard could be changed the visitors had doubled their advantage; the restart was secured and the backs took control and slick passing allowed the wing to saunter over in the left corner. Another good conversion and it was 0-14 and the game only 4 minutes old.
Teams faced with such an onslaught can either crumble or dig deep to find new resolve – happy to report that the character displayed by the 2013 Kenilworth squad was well represented on this most difficult day. The next 5 minutes was played close to the Lichfield line with the visitors forced to infringe a number of times to prevent Kenilworth reducing the deficit but no further action was taken. The Ks spurned the 3-points on each occasion to try and maintain the pressure on the Lichfield line but were eventually undone by a holding-on call. Lichfield sought to add to their total with a grubber kick ahead but in the attempt to chase it down, the Lichfield winger fell awkwardly in the tackle from Openshaw and had to leave the field.
The next 10 minutes was an arm wrestle with both sides trying to establish supremacy in the set piece; the set scrum was one area where Kenilworth had the slightest of edges and this did much to disrupt the Lichfield progress. Coupled with good scrum work was some outstanding defence close to the line with some crucial turnovers and even the impressive Lichfield No8 being shackled.
But such incessant defence takes its toll and the resultant fatigue will lead to gaps and a side with the quality of Lichfield will exploit them. A lineout in midfield saw the ball spun wide and great hands put the centre under the posts. These scores were coming in twos as almost direct from the restart Lichfield scored again and the bonus point was secured. With half-time approaching the visitors sought to put the game beyond reach and another score was added – this time unconverted – to make the score at the interval 0-33.
The second half got underway and a set scrum saw the Lichfield front row stood up but no penalty was called so the industrious Thompson took matters into his own hands and surged through the Lichfield defence before finding Clifford with only the full back to beat. 2 good passes later and Hickman was over for the first score for the hosts; Kendall added the extras with a difficult conversion close to the touchline. Kenilworth were now in the ascendancy and another forceful charge from the impressive Thompson saw the ball taken to the Lichfield before Flowers, standing in at half-back, found Selby who chipped ahead for the returning Beckett but the flyer just failed to gather. The Ks continued to press for a second score and Lichfield were guilty of successive infringements to stem the tide but eventually the ball was worked to Sheehan who darted towards the line and a fine hand-off out the busy centre under the posts and Kenilworth had stated the second half with 14 unanswered points.
With their first decent possession of the half the Lichfield backs executed some classy moves which stretched the home defence and produced their first points of the half to make the score 14-38. As Kenilworth continued to press, Lichfield made good use of converting defence to attack with a number of searing breaks which were halted by handling errors and a couple of quite outstanding run downs by Beckett who looked even faster following his return from his time away. Despite the winger’s efforts the ball was recycled and the visitors scored in the left corner. Kenilworth demonstrated their own ability to convert turnover to opportunity with Lowthian tearing up the left wing and attempting to find Beckett with the inside ball but the Lichfield defender got his had to it and slapped it down but no penalty was given. With time winding down Kenilworth pressed for another score and a good scrum looked to have given them the edge but the speedy Lichfield backs again ran from deep to record another score. The conversion proved the final act of the afternoon and gave Lichfield the half-century.
Despite the difference in points Kenilworth can take much from this game; measuring themselves against the clear benchmark of the league is a good way to identify where improvements can be made. The disastrous start aside, Kenilworth played with much ambition and the commitment in defence was all we have come to expect.