Stunning! No other word to describe the events at Glasshouse Lane last Saturday afternoon when Kenilworth made a real statement of intent by defeating the league leaders with a scoreline that ultimately flattered the visitors.
The early signs were that the visitors might dominate with their highly effective forward play; in the opening minutes OLs were highly effective in moving the ball through the forwards with some tight passing and good support runners. But for all their effort in these first 10 minutes, all they had to show was a solitary penalty to lead by 0-3.
Having absorbed all the early pressure, Kenilworth looked to counter attack at pace and one such move saw some good hands between Whitehall, Middleton and Tyler which took the ball to within 5m of the OLs line. Having been forced into touch the Ks forwards regrouped and set up for further attack from the ensuing lineout and a couple of pick-and-drives later, Wadey scored Kenilworth’s first points of the afternoon. O’Brien added the two to make the score 7-3.
Almost from the kick off Ks moved the ball left but a knock on gave the scrum to OLs but the exchange between 9 & 10 was well read by Renowden who intercepted the pass and run 30m unopposed to double the home score.
Another restart and almost as quickly another score! As Kenilworth moved the ball into midfield, Beckett appeared at centre and took possession and stepped inside to break the Ols line. Only one winner in that situation but the score came at a cost with Beckett pulling up just before scoring with a hamstring strain.
Momentum in sport is a valued commodity and Kenilworth clearly had it now and the next attack saw OLs penalised near half-way but some unwanted comment added another 10 which O’Brien gratefully accepted to send the penalty through the sticks. Just over 20 minutes gone and Kenilworth lead 24-3 – stunning!
The table doesn’t lie and nobody expected OLs to lie down and they didn’t disappoint; almost all of the next 10 minutes saw OLs in attack. But once again a 10-minute spell of possession produced only a single penalty. It would be wrong to highlight only the OLs attack as Kenilworth’s defensive effort was immense but after some great work on their own 5m line their cause was hurt by a yellow card on Gibson for lying on a ruck. OLs kicked the resulting penalty to make the score 24-9.
Back came that momentum thing and more great work from the backs with Whitehall linking well from 15 with the ball eventually finding Sheehan who stepped his man neatly to put Tyler over and secure the bonus point with just over half an hour gone. This momentum/confidence thing affects people in different ways and an ensuing attack saw Cresswell at fly-half who, after surveying his options, placed a deft cross-kick towards the corner for Wadey to chase on the right wing! What would have been a most unusual score was only just prevented by the OLs full-back.
OLs now introduced a real urgency into their play and more attack brought them close to the Ks line. The ball was moved quickly to the left and, with nobody home for Kenilworth, there was an easy run-in to bring the score closer at 31-14. Confidence was growing in the OLs team now and a final surge before the interval brought another penalty to make the half-time score 31-17.
OLs started the second half in the same way as they had the first; sustained pressure with precise passing but all their goods work was undone by giving away a penalty. This was further compounded by more unwanted chat which pushed them back an additional 10m. A good touch finder by O’Brien looked to put Ks within 10m of the visitors’ as the full-back fielded the ball with a foot in touch. The call was not made and from the resultant clearance Whitehall collected and looked to counter but was stopped by a high tackle and lost the ball (if this can be called an “error” it was the only one Whitehall made all day!). OLs took full advantage and quick hands saw the ball moved wide left to put the winger in under the posts. Suddenly what looked like a comfortable win for the home side was now a 7-point game.
That momentum thing seemed to have changed sides but another key event in the game was about to change the odds. OLs defending their own line had a number of penalties awarded against them and Ks looked to take a tap but the ball carrier had been tackled after only a couple of yards. The referee deemed the OL 7 to be the culprit and sent him to the sin bin.
The pendulum now swung the home side’s way and they proceeded to lay siege to the OLs line. Wave after wave of attack eventually saw Renowden over the line but the ball was lost forward and eventually the pressure was relieved when Ks were pinged for holding on. Ks eventually won a penalty within kicking range and O’Brien made sure to make it a 2-score lead.
OLs now played with the urgency of a side who believed they could still nick it and as they pushed forward Trafford anticipated the final pass for a timely interception and charged up field. Good support from Todd saw him take the ball on but a knock-on brought the move to an end. Both teams were suffering from the jitters now and some outstanding defence from the home side kept OLs at bay. But the pressure eventually told and, after a number of pick-and-drives the visitors scored and converted to make the score 34-31. That was the final move of the game as the referee signalled no-side and Kenilworth had hung on for a famous win.
This game was a fabulous advert for Rugby and had everything the sport demands; uncompromising physicality, selfless team effort and never-say-die attitude. For Kenilworth too this may prove a watershed. Prior to this game they had been guilty of switching off once the 4th try had been scored; not so in this game. As well as some great interplay in attack, the defensive effort will please the coaching staff most. Great effort!