A welcome return to action for the Kenilworth 1st XV after the recent weather disruption saw Newbold visit Glasshouse Lane in this Midlands 2 fixture. Despite the bright weather a biting wind brought temperatures close to freezing but the pitch looked in good condition considering what the last couple of weeks had thrown at it.
The game got off to a brisk start and after an early surge by the home side it was the visitors who had the lion’s share of possession in the first 10 minutes and opened the scoring with a penalty. At this point it was Newbold who were playing the more coherent rugby and the game was being played almost exclusively in the Kenilworth half. Another in a series of attacks resulted in an attacking scrum on the Kenilworth 5m line. Newbold got a good nudge on and looked to have scored in the corner but play was called back for an earlier infringement
Kenilworth was on the back foot for most of the first half-hour and, although they had not reached the level of play seen in previous games, their defence was resolute and well-drilled. It should also be noted that Newbold were playing at a level which belied their league position and could have had more of an advantage had it not been for errors and the stout home defence.
The match had been occasionally fractious and one such incident led to a Ks penalty; from the resultant lineout the forwards drove on to set up the phases and eventually scored the first try of the afternoon from Number 8 Thompson. Kenilworth seemed to have been stirred into action by this score and went on the offensive; one such move saw Middleton collect a clearance kick and Renowden took the offload to set Beckett on his rapid way. But the attack was stopped in midfield by some solid tackling by the visitors who then took the ball up to the Ks’ 22. Newbold looked to move the ball left but Dave Johnston, making a welcome return after a long injury, read the situation well and won possession and made a solid clearance. With the half drawing to close Kenilworth mounted a final attack and were within 5m of the line when a knock-on ended the attack.
Kenilworth collected the restart and the ball found Beckett who stormed up to the half-way where a Newbold infringement resulted in a quickly taken penalty which took play to within 10m of the line. Another infringement gave Kenilworth a kickable penalty which Kendall duly converted to make the score 8-3. Newbold were still having most of the possession in the opening minutes of the second half and a clearance by Kenilworth produced one of the best plays of the match. Renowden chased his own clearance kick and forced a turnover which Middleton collected and finds O’Brian backing up well. The fly-half found Beckett on the outside who looked to be heading for another score but the flyer was held up just short and the chance went begging.
Some promising Kenilworth attacks were being thwarted by handling errors, questionable defensive methods and some odd penalties. Newbold were also having their moments and the Number 8 cut through the defensive line with a barnstorming run before putting the centre away for what looked like a certain score but the Ks defence held him up just short. Kenilworth were back on the attack and an attempted clearance by Newbold was collected by Lowthian who charged towards the defence before finding Beckett with a deft offload. Beckett found Lane on his outside shoulder and the lock headed for the corner but was held just feet from the line; a penalty relieved the pressure for the visitors. Kenilworth now had a prolonged period of possession in their opponent’s half and another good chance wend begging as Renowden cut inside but was stopped just short. The pressure continued and Kenilworth won an attacking lineout 10m from the line; with the maul formed, Renowden marshalled the pack and chose his moment perfectly to take the ball and sneak in at the corner. Kendall was just wide with a difficult conversion so the score stayed at 13-3.
With the game drawing to a close Kenilworth were guilty of some sloppy work in midfield which allowed Newbold to race in for a score which looked like it would earn a bonus point. The referee seemed to add significant time now and there was sufficient time for a yellow card for the Newbold 7 who had caught the official’s eye on a number of prior occasions. Time also for a final penalty from Kendall to deny the bonus point which the visitors appeared to have earned.
So a win in awkward circumstances – but still a win. Alarmingly it took a considerable time for Kenilworth to find their tempo and rouse themselves from the inactivity of the previous weeks but there were some plus points. Defence was resolute for the most part – one glaring lapse cost 5 points but otherwise the line was solid. The team did not panic when faced with long periods without the ball but bided their time and got themselves back in the game. As all thoughts drift inevitably to the crunch fixture on the 16th February it is important to keep in mind there are other challenging fixtures to be met where resolute defence and smart game management will be priceless attributes.