Kenilworth 47 Leamington 3
A glorious late September afternoon at Glasshouse Lane promised a fast, open game between these two local rivals; facing each other for the first time in 6 years. The pre kick-off instructions to both captains by the visiting referee suggested that the man in the middle had done his homework and was aware of the significance of this fixture in days past.
The early exchanges were tentative and both sides were guilty of not making the most of some good early possession. Encouragingly for Kenilworth, early set-piece play suggested that the home side would enjoy an advantage in this area of the game but some early penalty decisions did much to nullify this benefit. From one such scrum, Nunn the Leamington half-back, judged his move well to intercept Renowden’s pass to move Leamington into Ks territory and a promising attack developed. As the ball was moved wide, James Wadey showed great anticipation to intercept the pass and break the Leamington line thundering 20 metres before opting to give the honours to O’Brien supporting well on his right shoulder for a try in the corner. Kendal continued his good run of form with a well-judged conversion from close to the touchline.
The try seemed to lift Kenilworth and the next 10 minutes were almost all spent in the leamington half but all too often the attack came to an abrupt end due to a whistle rather than an error from the home side. With the penalty count becoming an issue Kenilworth were finally awarded one of their own and Kendall made no mistake to extend the lead to 10-0 with a quarter of the match played.
Leamington now upped their game and put together a series of good moves but all came to nought as each attack ended with largely unforced errors. One such attack was turned over well be Thompson and Renowden turned defence into attack with a good line break and the ball eventually found its way to Whitehall who ran all of 50m to touch down close to the posts. Another successful conversion by Kendall brought the score to 17-0. Again leamington responded well from the kick-off with another strong surge into the Kenilworth half but eerily it was Wadey again who read the game well intercepting the attacking ball and charging up the pitch. This time he had Openshaw on his left shoulder who not only secured the offload but, with a deft chip-kick over the oncoming defender, brought play all the way to the Leamington 22m line.
In the remaining minutes before the half, Kenilworth continued pressing for an additional score but becoming increasingly frustrated by some unfathomable decisions. But eventually the pressure did tell; with the Ks’ attack faltering, Whitehall took matters into his own hands and took off up the left wing beating defenders en route to a fine score to leave the half-time score 25-3.
The second half began in much the same way as the first half with Leamington keen to take the ball on but let down by a final pass or other unforced errors. And, worryingly for Kenilworth, the penalty count continued to climb against the home side and the latest infringement put Leamington 10m form the Ks line. Again the promising attack was turned by Renowden, well supported by Todd, the ball finding its way to Beckett who took off with customary speed towards the line only to be stopped by an outstanding last-gasp tackle by winger Raby. Kenilworth were now steadily increasing the tempo of the game as they sensed a real opportunity to close the game out and spent long periods in the Leamington half.
As Leamington looked to ease the pressure with a scrum Renowden again got the drop on his opposite number and made another outstanding line break which again found its way to Beckett who did what he did all day – quickly! Tearing up the right wing he found support inside him which split the Leamington defence and put O’Brien in for his second of the afternoon. The die was now cast and the only issue to be decided was the margin of victory and Kenilworth now entered their most dominant phase of the game. A fantastic break on the right wing resulted in superb handling between a number of players with Ross Lothian taking the final pass with 15m still to go. The lone defender between Lothian and the line was “displaced” by the hooker’s final effort to score close to the posts. A last flurry near the Leamington line saw Renowden steal over for a try which was the minimum reward for his afternoon’s industry.
So a final score of 42-3 is the reward of a good afternoon's work, but there is much to work on- Ks took far too long to establish a rhythm to the game and impose their game on the opposition. The restarts, although well secured, were not converted into possessions which set a tone for the next phases of the game. We will surely meet sterner tests this season and these shortcomings may be exposed but that is to take nothing away from Leamington who played with real commitment and intent.