Kenilworth 20 Leighton Buzzard 19
A week is a long time in Rugby; after last week’s heroic effort against the league leaders, Kenilworth were strangely out of sorts against a forthright Leighton Buzzard side in this Intermediate Cup tie at Glasshouse Lane.
The early signs were not good for the home side as they failed to match the tempo of Leighton who looked to move the ball at every opportunity. Defence has been a hallmark of Kenilworth’s season thus far and surprisingly it was this aspect of their game that was lacking in these early minutes. Time and time again they failed to make first-up tackles and the biggest surprise was that the game remained scoreless for 25 minutes.
The opening score, when it came, was worryingly easy. Leighton had advanced the ball to within 5m of the Ks line when they looked to move the ball through the pick-and-drive. From one such move the ball was moved inside and although Kenilworth looked to have the threat covered, the Leighton centre crossed almost unopposed. Conversion successful and Leighton were up 7 after nearly half-an-hour.
Soon after Kenilworth were dealt another blow with the early retirement of Wadey ; what had looked to be a fairly normal tumble had resulted in a hip injury which saw him take no further part.
The visitors now had their tails up and were only denied a follow-up score by some good clearing up by O’Brien following a kick and chase from deep. But the reprieve was only temporary; Leighton were soon camped close to the Ks’ line and there was a sense of inevitability about the next score. As Leighton looked to keep the ball close and drive over from close range a series of penalties were called against the home side; from one such offence the visitors took a quick tap-and-go and scored close to the posts. Another successful conversion and the score was 0-14.
Kenilworth now tried to regroup and moved the ball well to get inside the LB 22 but, with a 3 on 1 overlap, they failed to cross the line but won a penalty for an earlier offence. From the ensuing ruck LB seemed to be on the wrong side but it mattered little as Jake Dodd had found a way to smash through the pack to touch down for some valuable points before the half.
From the restart the Ks began with real urgency and things augured well for a return to early-season form but just as quickly LB exploited a gap on the right to put the winger in for what looked like a certain score but the final pass was judged forward and the pressure was temporarily relived. The set scrum had been exploited by LB as they had a clear advantage but Ks had achieved parity at this phase and there was now a period of real attrition where both sides gave all to gain an advantage.
The stalemate was broken by a passage of wonderful rugby started and finished by Whitehall who was one of Kenilworth’s standout players on an indifferent afternoon. Having trapped a clearance with his boot and returned a kick to touch, Whitehall found himself fielding the return and proceeded to look right. A change of direction too him down the left wing and as the touchline beckoned he passed inside to find Llewellyn who headed for the line. Realising he wouldn’t beat the approaching defence, he pushed the ball left to find the supporting Middleton who swung the ball put to the left wing to Whitehall who finished the move off with some aplomb. 14-14.
As the game moved into the final quarter, Kenilworth were awarded a penalty 22m out and O’Brien (who had another influential afternoon) broke the deadlock to put the home side ahead for the first time in the game. But it didn’t last – LB surged back towards the Ks line when Renowden, with all the commitment of a Kamikaze pilot, smashed into the ball carrier with the ball spilling forward. But play continued and LB moved the ball wide left and, once again, poor tackling allowed the go-ahead score with the conversion falling short. 17-19.
Time was running out and it appeared that Kenilworth were trying too hard and the final pass was not going to hand but on one such attack, play was brought back for an earlier penalty and O’Brien made no mistake to nudge the home side ahead by the slimmest of margins. As LB looked to regain the advantage, their final attack was stopped by another show of Renowden-like commitment by fly-half O’Brien who thundered into the LB back-rower to bring the attack to a shuddering halt. Selby pushed the ball into touch from the ensuing ruck and Ks escaped with what had seemed an unlikely victory.
This was an off day – no debate – but Kenilworth dug deep to find a way to win. Winning whilst playing badly is a high-class problem to have!