The hardy faithful at Glasshouse Lane who braved the near-freezing conditions were treated to an enthralling game against the only team to beat Kenilworth this season. A bit of everything; resolute defence, slick running and, as the clock ran down, the occasional lapse.
The good crowd had barely claimed their places before O’Brien made his first break down the right wing and, with the ball moved inside, Renowden was on hand for the first score of the afternoon. Straight from the kick off, Kidderminster pressed forward and won a lineout inside the Ks’ 22. Ball secured and the rolling maul was set up and rumbled towards the line and just like that we were all square with barely 5 minutes gone.
The visitors had gathered themselves well after conceding the initial score and it was they who dominated the next 15 minutes of the game; almost all of it spent in the Kenilworth half. But it is testament to the home side’s defence and structure that no further points were shipped during this period. This phase was brought to a temporary halt with injuries to both sides with Laney replacing Phillips for Kenilworth. With Kidderminster resuming its surge forward, the Ks’ defence held firm and the ball was kicked clear but a fumble by the Kidderminster full-back gave Beckett a clear run to the line. Unfortunately the winger could not gather the ball cleanly and the chance went begging.
The home side were now seeing more of the ball in attack and found touch 10m out; Renowden pounced on the poor throw-in and spun the ball wide but a handling error brought the move to a halt. The move is almost repeated during the next attack but this time Middleton was forced into touch but play was brought back for an earlier transgression and O’Brien nudged the Hosts ahead with a well struck penalty.
Another series of great defence by Kenilworth is brought to a sudden halt by a blistering run from the Kidderminster winger who ran through a series of missed tackles before Beckett, tearing back, dragged him to ground. Kidderminster continue the attack and are within 5m of the line when the pressure is relieved on the home side by a crossing penalty. Great work at the lineout sees the pack maul a good 15m before Renowden breaks inside and puts Tyler away. As the defence closes in Tyler finds Renowden again backing up and he heads for the line just beating the pursuing defenders for his second score of the day.
A key feature of this game was the ferocity of the exchanges and it’s credit to both teams that such intensity was contained within the spirit of the game. With Kidderminster again threatening, Thompson eases the pressure with a breakout from the base of the scrum and with Todd backing up well play is taken all the way down to the visitors’ 10m line but the half ended before any further progress could be made with the home side leading 17-7.
The second half is off to a frenzied start and, having weathered the first wave of attacks, Kenilworth look to attack down the left wing with Renowden again in the thick of it. His pass reaches O’Brien who, with terrific vision, spins the ball the width of the field to find Beckett. The winger uses the bounce of the ball well to step inside the oncoming defender to dart through to score. A pattern was developing here with the visitors having long periods of possession but stifled by some uncompromising defence; Ks discipline allowed them to make the most of turnover ball and use these opportunities to stretch the visitors and score on the breakaway. One such run from Beckett looked certain to put Middleton away but the pass was adjudged forward. But the die was cast and Kenilworth stuck to this adopted plan; again it was Beckett who provided the break and set the ball well for Renowden following up well. The ball was spun out to the left wing where captain Cresswell was waiting and, with some work still to do, smashed his way over the line for the bonus-point score. Back came Kidderminster but some great work by Dodd strips the flanker of the ball only 5m out with a score looking likely. Kidderminster regained possession and again were to spend 5 minutes within 5m of a score but the home side’s defence again held out; eventually a gap appeared and Kidderminster scored their second try.
This score stirred Kenilworth into a new urgency with a scintillating break from Tyler splitting the defence and setting the ball well for Renowden whose slick pass finds Cresswell inside. O’Brien takes the next pass and finds Middleton who cuts inside and finds Tyler backing up well to take the ball on. With two defenders in front of him the centre does well to work his way over for another good try.
With time running out Kenilworth found themselves again having to defend and in the final few minutes allowed a couple of scores to the visitors which, earlier in the game, would not have been so easy. Perhaps there was a feeling of “a job well done” which lulled the hosts into taking their eye off the ball but there will be fixtures in the near future where they will not have that luxury. But that is the only minor gripe of a very satisfying and entertaining afternoon; some of the ball handling was sublime and some of the defensive work showed breathtaking commitment. It is the sense of togetherness in this squad that continues to impress and sees the team through difficult periods in games and that will surely be tested in the weeks to come.