Seems churlish to complain about a game of Rugby when so many others are facing far greater problems but the conditions facing the players at Glasshouse Lane were grim (following a swap of venue with the visitors due to flooding at Upton). Some may use the word “challenging” but I prefer to compare it to playing rugby with a bar of soap inside a car wash whilst wearing roller skates.
Not surprising the early exchanges were tentative as both teams struggled to come to terms with the elements but that did not stop both sides making great efforts to produce some entertaining rugby against all the odds. Indeed it was the visitors who produced the first real threatening move of the afternoon but the final pass went astray and Kenilworth cleared the danger. A Renowden break in the other direction promised first points but again the final pass did not go to hand and the chance went begging.
But after 15 minutes we had a clear example of how simplicity can pay dividends under such demanding conditions; Ian Philips at 8 picked up the ball at the back of the scrum and found O’Brien running left. A well-timed pass to Tyler who took the ball at pace on the left wing saw the centre make a full 20 metres before slipping the ball to Middleton who finished well in the corner. O’Brien nailed the conversion under difficult conditions of both angle and weather to make the score 7-0 to the home side.
That score established an MO which Kenilworth would use for most of the game and the next 10 minutes were almost completely spent within 10m of the Upton line. Eventually the pressure told and from a tap-and-go penalty the ball was slipped to Todd who touched down to extend the lead.
Openshaw was having a big day at lineout time and, from one such set-piece, he won a good ball to set up a driving maul from which the ball found the industrious Philips for a deserved score. Another wonderful conversion from O’Brien made the score 19-0.
Upton were now stung into action and produced a series of well-executed phases to advance within 10m of the K lime but for all their endeavour, 3 points were all they had to show for their first half efforts following a Kenilworth infringement at the ruck.
Kenilworth changed their strip at half-time (using the fluorescent yellow of the Cavaliers side) and this lifted the gloom at Glasshouse Lane for about 12 seconds. Ks were soon back on the attack and chasing the all-important 4th try; O’Brien put them in a great attacking position with a nudge to within 10m of the Upton line. Another good take at the lineout saw the forwards advance in a testudo towards the line with Lowthian taking the ball over to continue his impressive form and secure the bonus point.
Kenilworth had established a good rhythm to their game now and a touch-finder from Tyler saw another lineout taken by Openshaw to set up the weapon of choice – the rolling maul. Again the tactic proved irresistible with the scoring honour going to Dodd who has had an impressive season at the coalface.
The weather now deteriorated (if that were possible) and errors and injuries began to mount; in a short time Ks lost Philips and Sheehan to ankle injuries forcing some reorganisation in the forwards. But the die was cast and, despite the late changes, Kenilworth finished the afternoon with a flourish. After a series of penalties, captain Cresswell took matters into his own hands and produced a bustling rush towards the line to score the final try of the afternoon; O’Brien again landed the awkward kick to make the final score 36-3.
This was ultimately a satisfying win for Kenilworth because they adapted well to very trying conditions. A game in such weather can be a great leveller but the home side justified their superior table position by playing the conditions to their advantage. A word too for the visitors who, despite the conditions and the scoreboard, contributed hugely to the game and never stopped trying.
Kenilworth; Dodd, Lowthian, Cresswell, Lane, Flowers, Openshaw, Todd, Philips, Renowden, O’Brien, Middleton, Sheehan, Tyler, Clifford, Kendall