Back to league action after the festivities and what better way to start the New Year than with a great local derby at Leamington. Thankfully the recent rain abated for the afternoon but the pitch had taken a lot of water in the preceding days.
A busy start by both teams with Kenilworth providing the early threat with a series of runs inside the Leamington 22. From one such attack Leamington attempted to clear their lines but the kick was skilfully gathered by Dodd who took a direct line toward the line. With the defence closing, Dodd found Tyler on an inside line who ran the ball in from 15m to open the scoring against his former team.
Almost from the restart, Leamington drove to within 10m of the Visitors’ line and spent a good 5 minutes in that area but with nothing to show for all that effort. Ks defence was very disciplined in making the opposition move the ball laterally but with little or no forward progress. This series was eventually brought to a halt by a bull run from Thompson breaking out from defence; the ball finding its way out to Middleton who set off down the left wing but the play came to an end with a Leamington scrum. From that scrum Leamington mounted another attack but, with men outside, the centre decided to kick – straight into the arms of Beckett. Ks had a great opportunity to counter with a 3-on-2 but a misunderstanding and the chance went begging.
A series of disrupted scrums followed with the deadlock being broken by Renowden putting a smart kick behind the defence and finding touch inside the home 22. Ks win the lineout but lose possession and Leamington break out with a kick and chase and a score looks on but an infringement at the tackle gives a penalty to Kenilworth. Ks win the ensuing lineout and set up play in midfield with the ball moved right towards Beckett’s right wing where Lowthian is in attendance. The front-rower showed great agility to step the first defender and hand off the second and now a simple offload to the speedster Beckett should seal the deal. Not a bit of it – Lowthian stepped the final defender to slide over for the second try of the afternoon and so continue his highly impressive form this season.
As from the previous restart, Leamington drove to within 10m of the Ks’ line but again the visitors’ defence was solid and the play was brought to an abrupt halt with a shuddering tackle from Renowden who was playing with his customary commitment.
After a fairly ordinary first half, Leamington began the second half at a rush but again, the final pass went astray and the opportunity was lost. The scrum in the first half appeared to be an area of strength for the hosts but from the first scrum of the second period Renowden picked up and darted up the middle of the field. With his pace taking him past the first line of defence he had options either side due to great support running but a final step beat the last defender and score under the posts. Another 2 from Kendall brought the score to 0-21 and a rout looked likely. Full marks to Leamington, they had no intention of folding their hand and from the restart drove inside the Ks’ 22 and were awarded a penalty. A quick tap and go saw the ball spun left to Secher who stepped his man smartly to score close to the posts. That score sparked Kenilworth to greater urgency and from the restart they surged forward with a series of good phases moving the ball right and left. The backs showed great patience in their execution and the gap eventually opened for Middleton to dive over for the bonus point score.
As the final quarter approached, Leamington were enjoying their best period of the match; a real sense of urgency and better use of possession saw them take the lion’s share of possession during this period. But the visitors’ were resolute in their defence and kept the home side at bay for long periods until finally a 5m scrum provided a real opportunity to narrow the gap. Despite the front rows standing up, play continued and a blind side gap provided the avenue for their second try. The tempo of the game was on the up and the increased speed brought with it additional handling errors which squandered chances for both teams. With Leamington again on the attack another thundering tackle from Renowden snuffed out the threat – the referee judged that he arrived early and showed him the yellow card! Time running out and finally a penalty for the visitors allows them to close out the game for a valuable bonus-point win.
Kenilworth: Lowthian, Cresswell, Dodd, Nicholson, Openshaw, Todd, Gibson, Thompson, Renowden, O’Brien, Middleton, Tyler, Norton, Beckett, Tyler. Subs: Flowers, Collett, Selby