KENILWORTH 15 BANBURY 21
In torrential rain Kenilworth’s title hopes took a big dent as they failed to defeat a spirited Banbury side that is fighting relegation. After taking an 8-0 lead early on, they suffered their first home defeat of the season and only their second league defeat of the season but can still clinch the title with two bonus point wins in the closing games at Dunlop and Bedworth, writes Willie Whitesmith.
Kenilworth were without their influential skipper, hooker Jonny Cresswell, but otherwise were at near full strength. They started brightly and after two minutes the prolific Tom Kendall succeeded with a penalty. However basic mistakes were letting Banbury into the game and they were being well marshaled from fly half by former Kenilworth player Jed Boyle. However Kenilworth were still prominent in attack and good breaks from centre Simon Tyler, flanker Stephen Todd and scrum half Gaz Renowden were promising, but came to nothing. On thirteen minutes an excellent passage of play from both backs and forwards was finished by Jimmy Middleton in the corner. Kendall failed with the conversion and Kenilworth were looking reasonably comfortable at 8-0. However Banbury were slowly coming into the game and were retaining possession and offloading well. They came close to a try on two occasions and failed with a penalty and the warning signs were there. On 28 minutes Kenilworth’s Jack Gibson received a yellow card and this was to prove pivotal. From the scrum Banbury scored a converted try and the game was indeed on. It was Banbury who were now in the ascendancy and K’s were on the back foot. The pressure told again on 35 minutes with another Banbury converted try and in added time they scored a third try to make the half-time score 8-21, scoring 14 of their points when Kenilworth had a man in the bin.
The second half started and continued in the same vein and the big home crowd were growing restless with the apparent lack of progress by the home side. The wet ball was proving elusive and knock ons were prominent. Kenilworth’s lineout was also failing to function depriving them of much needed ball and Banbury were very much in control. They were awarded a penalty but failed to convert it. After 20 minutes and a period of Kenilworth pressure it was Banbury’s turn to have someone binned but this did not have the same effect of the earlier Kenilworth binning. However Kenilworth were slowly coming into the game and on 30 minutes after a period of pressure on the Banbury line, scrum half Gaz Renowden, popped in a try with a trademark snipe and his twentieth try of the season. Kendall added the conversion and Kenilworth were now in sight of an unlikely win. Play was now almost confined to the Banbury half although Banbury had the odd dangerous excursion into K’s territory. A well judged kick ahead put the young Banbury substitute winger in a bit of trouble and he was penalized for holding on. Surprisingly, with time still available, Kenilworth opted for the scrum but again, it came to nothing and the game ended with Kenilworth close to the line, but not crossing it.
It will be interesting to see how this young side react to this set back. The crucial losing bonus point gained maintained a one point advantage over Old Laurentians and the fact remains that two bonus point wins in the next two weeks will ensure the title and immediate promotion back to Midlands 1 west. It is hoped that the impressive Banbury side, who made a mockery of their league position, will put up an equally impressive display at home against Old Laurentians on the last Saturday.