Kenilworth blew a sigh of relief when, after an afternoon of occasionally misfiring rugby, they secured a bonus point win against an enterprising Shipston who belied their position in the lower reaches of the league, writes Glyn Owen.
As against Leighton Buzzard last week, Kenilworth were slow out of the blocks and were punished twice in the first twenty minutes as Shipston took advantage of ill discipline and some flimsy tackling to race into a 12 point lead. Kenilworth began to attack with a little more cohesion, threatening in the wide channels, but the final pass was often misdirected or led to isolated runners and resultant turnovers.
However, in the closing moments of the half the forwards took control from a lineout 15 metres out and showed great composure in driving over the line for a try from the increasingly influential Jake Dodd. O'Brien added the extras.
The second half continued in the same vein. From a penalty soon after the restart captain Cresswell eschewed the three points on offer and after O'Brien found touch 5 metres out Dodd crossed the line again after another perfectly executed driving maul. O'Brien's extras put Kenilworth into the lead for the first time; the skipper's decision was vindicated. Kenilworth's tails were now up and the next twenty minutes saw all the play in Shipston's half with the home side gaining the upper hand in the set piece. The introduction of Thompson began to pay dividends with a number of strong carries and Renowden began to direct operations from scrum half with some probing kicks
which put Kenilworth in the right areas of the field to exert pressure from the now dominant pack.
The next score came from a well controlled scrum 5 metres out when Thompson marked his return with a trademark show and go from the base. O'Brien who had been striking the ball well pushed his conversion attempt just wide. Kenilworth were now playing the percentages sensibly and, from another incursion into the Shipston 22, pressure yielded another scrum 5. This time it was Renowden, who, having been thwarted moments earlier, sniped over to secure the bonus point try. With O'Brien knocking over the extras to take the score to 26-12 it seemed that the tables had been sufficiently turned for Kenilworth to press home their dominance further.
However, Shipston had other ideas and when Kenilworth took their foot off the gas the visitors found some real zip to take the game to the hosts. Strong running in the centres and some sharp bursts by their speedy left wing led to some increasingly desperate scrambled defence from the K's and it was no surprise when Shipston crossed the line out on the left. A well struck conversion put Shipston in bonus point territory of their own, cutting Kenilworth's lead to 7 points. The last 5 minutes took place in Shipston's half with Kenilworth having a chance in the last few minutes to take three points which would have left the visitors needing two scores to secure victory. Sniffing another seven pointer
Kenilworth opted for the scrum and looked set to cross the line when a spilled ball gave Shipston a last chance and had the coaches reaching for the valium.
However, Shipston failed to gain the necessary ground and the ball was hoofed into touch on halfway to signal a hard earned victory.
An unfortunate victim of the afternoon was Andy Whitehall who had played with his customary élan and composure. What seemed an innocuous collision in the final moments led to a ruptured biceps – an injury which will require immediate surgery and a lengthy rehabilitation. We all wish Andy well.
Next week sees us visit Upton on Severn for the first time. There will be a players and supporters coach - all welcome.