Thrilling! Kenilworth held their nerve to edge out fellow newcomers Silhillians in a game that said much about the standard of rugby in this league, writes Ralph Murray.
On a bright, dry afternoon at Glasshouse Lane a good crowd had assembled and all the signs were that this would be a memorable occasion; but after just 3 minutes of the new season, Kenilworth found themselves behind to a try which signalled the visitors' intent with stark clarity. Following the missed conversion the Ks went right back on the attack and a series of slick passes and direct running got them inside the opposition 22 but the move was halted by a penalty for holding on.
Sills pressed again and this time their maul was held up well by Kens; the ball was moved to the backs but a forward pass brought this move to an end. Sills regained possession inside their 22 following a turnover and they looked to break out quickly; some quick hands put the winger away down the right flank and a kick ahead looked to beat the Ks defence. In attempting to field the kick, Kendall knocked on in what was probably his only error of the game and Sills looked to threaten again from the ensuing scrum. A penalty infringement gave possession to Kenilworth and they looked to move the ball at speed through the backs but the move ended when Sills were penalised in front of their posts. Kendall made no mistake and the home side registered their first points of the new campaign
These first points produced a marked change in Kenilworth and they looked far more assured on the ball and looked to attack at every opportunity; one such move saw O’Brien nudge the ball deep into Sills 22. The visitors were penalised at the next possession which gave Kendall a difficult chance to get Ks’ noses in front and the full-back slotted a sweet strike to make the score 6-5.
But Sills came right back and were pressing on the home 22 when a scrum offence followed by some loose words gave them a penalty close to the line; a quick take and deft hands put them over in the corner and the lead was theirs again. But Kenilworth responded with equal intent and produced a sustained period of pressure close to the Sills’ line; O’Brien looked to have got over the line but the ball was stolen and Ks were awarded a scrum. Renowden went for a trademark snipe from the next scrum but was deemed to have been held-up. At the third attempt, Renowden again stretched the goal-line defence but worked a smart pass inside to the charging Wadey who crashed over from short range. The see-saw scoreboard was now showing a slender home lead and the crowd were really warming to the spectacle unfolding before them.
The next 10 mins saw a series of attacks from both sides but the penalty count was becoming lopsided in favour of the visitors; despite the errors, the match continued to entertain. Approaching half-time, O’Brien sent a penalty deep inside the Sills 22 and from the ensuing lineout set up a driving maul which thundered over with Thompson making the all-important touchdown. Kendall added 2 and the sides changed ends with Kenilworth 20-12 to the good.
The second half began with both sides committing a series of fairly basic errors. From a Sills scrum in K territory, Thompson forced a turnover and got to half-way before the ball went astray. Lowthian was first to react and not only secured possession but tore up the field, stepping a would-be tackler and taking the ball to within 5m of the line. Sills recovered well to hold the ball up but an infringement gave Kendall another chance to add 3 and again makes no mistake. Sills now upped their game and got 3 back with a short-range penalty; they looked set to add another 5 before a last-ditch tap tackle from Hannam denied them. From the resultant scrum, the Sills 8 took matters into his own hands and from the base of the scrum fended off two defenders to score near the posts. The conversion restored a slender 1-point advantage for the visitors.
In the final quarter Kenilworth were trying everything to restore their lead but errors and the penalty count were conspiring to thwart their efforts; one such error added 3 for the visitors. The maul had been an effective weapon for Ks on this afternoon and one such surge brought them to the visitors’ 22. Renowden passed flat to the busy Hannam (who had a fine home debut) who ran right at the defence and looked for support as he was tackled; with the kind of commitment so common in Renowden’s game, it was he who was following up for the offload and crashed over and Ks were back in front.
Sills again upped the effort to get back on terms and a series of 7 penalties against Kenilworth and a yellow card for Roberts only minutes after coming on seemed ominous. With a man advantage, the set scrum proved vital and Sills scored an unconverted try and the sides were locked at 30 apiece going into injury time.
That might have been that, but Kenilworth were going to bet the house on one last throw of the dice. From their next possession they surged up the field and were already close to Kendall’s range when one further move produced the desired penalty. To cap his man-of-the-match outing Kendall split the uprights to make the final score 33-30 – breathtaking!
The overriding message from this game was the intensity and spirit in which it was played; both sides recovered from setbacks by being totally positive in their approach. The error count would upset the purists and some of the decisions could have produced more frustration in lesser sides but Kenilworth showed great character and self-belief to close this game out. Both sides are newcomers and sterner tests will surely follow but securing this priceless win will stand the Ks in good stead for the task ahead.
Pics of the game can be seen at