In American Football they have a saying “great offence wins games – great defence wins championships”. Yesterday at Newbold, Kenilworth’s performance not only secured 5 valuable points away from home but also suggested a toughness that could go a long way to defining their season, writes Ralph Murray.
On a bright but chilly autumn day the afternoon began on a sombre note; a minute’s silence was observed for Jackie Reed who passed away recently. By all accounts she was a real stalwart of both Newbold and Old Laurentians and her sons play at both clubs.
As play got underway it was soon clear that the swirling wind was going to be a factor. An early penalty to Newbold would normally have warranted a shot at goal but the fly-half took the touch option and gave the home side a good attacking lineout with only 2 minutes gone. Newbold moved the ball quickly form the lineout eventually finding the afore-mentioned Reed who headed for the line evading a couple of tackles but a last-ditch tackle prevented the score and this was to set the tone for the afternoon.
After a period where both teams were seeking to establish their game, the visitors mounted their first real attack of the game. Some great work by Sheehan saw him skip through two tackles before being brought down 10 metres out but the ball was recycled quickly and moved wide left where Lowthian crossed to continue his impressive scoring run.
Kenilworth were enjoying the lion’s share of possession now and their next attack ended with a knock-on and the resultant scrum was to be another key indicator for the game. Newbold produced an impressive shove to put real pressure on Kenilworth but the visitors reacted well and eventually won a penalty after Newbold were guilty of holding on. Another series of attacks saw Kenilworth move the ball left and some great interplay between Todd, Sheehan and Lowthian produced a good score close to the posts for the returning Ed Hunter. Kendall added the conversion to make the score 0-12.
Newbold had only a penalty to show for their efforts but this was largely due to some outstanding defence by the visitors; Beckett proving as fast in defence as he is in attack with a great effort to deny the Newbold wing a certain run-in. But the winger would have his say; from a restart the ball was quickly moved out to him and he managed to evade all tackles on his way to a score in the corner to make the half-time score 8-12.
The second half saw Kenilworth continue in attack mode and were showing signs of running away with the game – literally! But the wind was causing problems for both sides and, despite a lot of possession, the Ks could not add to the total. But the pressure eventually told and with the ball spinning out to Middleton (who had an industrious afternoon) and he found Nicholson who jinked inside to score.
Newbold now enjoyed their best period of the game and were only prevented from taking full advantage by more top-drawer defence by Kenilworth. But it only takes one well-executed move to turn the game on its head and Newbold did just that with a sustained break from their own half and moved the ball well to score in the corner and add the conversion and just like that it was a 2-point game.
Jack Gibson now joined the fray after a long spell of injury and illness; he replaced Tom Lane who had a good day on his return from a long injury, particularly at the lineout. The tempo of the game continued to be set by the visitors and continued pressure was sure to take its toll. One such attack saw the ball go left to Sheehan who timed his pass well to put Middleton away but as the Newbold defence closed him down he worked a clever reverse with Whitehall who cut inside for a well worked score close to the posts. Kendall added the 2 to put Kenilworth 9 points ahead.
For the next 10 mins, Kenilworth enjoyed almost uninterrupted possession and more scores seemed inevitable but none came. But the possession denied Newbold the opportunity to get back on terms and Kenilworth, having secured the bonus point try, did not repeat the mistakes of earlier games and played smart to stifle the opposition. With the clock winding down Newbold won a penalty which was well converted to give the home side a deserved bonus point with the last kick of the game.
So perhaps the most complete performance of the season for Kenilworth with defence outstanding and particular mention should go to James Wadey and Gareth Renowden who worked tirelessly. Refreshing too to see that Kenilworth did not switch off once the 4th try had been secured; this had been an Achilles heel for the team but this game put that right. But you do not score 4 tries away from home by just defence and some of the interplay between backs and forwards was pretty special.
So half of this key fortnight has been successfully completed but the biggest test of the season comes next week with the visit of Old Laurentians to Glasshouse Lane. The result of that game will tell us much about how far this group can go.
Kenilworth: Dodd, Lowthian, Hunter, Lane, Flowers, Todd, Nicholson, Wade, Renowden, O’Brien, Middleton, Sheehan, Whitehall, Beckett, Kendall: Subs Selby, Gibson & Cresswell.