Kenilworth’s run in the RFU Intermediate Cup came to an abrupt end in a disappointing performance at Oadby Wyggestonian just 7 days before the season’s crunch fixture at Old Laurentians. On a cold, damp, overcast afternoon a game which Kenilworth should have closed out (Oadby had won only 3 fixtures all season) was littered with errors and poor decision-making.
The opening 10 minutes was to be a taster of things to come with both sides making unforced errors; this was typified by Ks making good progress to within 5m of the Oadby line but the resultant lineout was turned over for not straight. From the resultant scrum, Kenilworth overpowered the home 8 and won back possession only to give the ball straight back for a knock-on. This continued until finally Selby got quick ball out to O’Brian who stood up well at the first hit but was isolated and Oadby stole the ball and cleared their lines.
At this point it was Kenilworth who were playing the more creative rugby and the ball worked swiftly out to Beckett on the right wing who attempted to chip his marker but Oadby were able to clear the danger. Again Ks ran the ball right back and, what looked like a promising move in midfield, was brought back for a crossing call.
Oadby now made their first real incursion and as a result were awarded two penalties in quick succession; with both missing their target it looked like this could be a deciding feature of the match.
With a quarter of an hour gone the visitors suffered a major setback; O’Brian, who was having a strong season, pulled up violently with an apparent hamstring strain. A hasty reorganisation in the three-quarters saw Sheehan move to out-half with Renowden taking his place in the centre. Ks settled into the new structure quite quickly with the ball moved wide to Kendall who had Beckett outside him but the final bass went to ground. The frustration was there for all to see; Kenilworth were dominating set-pieces, particularly set scrums, but all these efforts were not producing points. A perfect illustration of this came when Ks stole an Oadby throw in on their own 22 and Todd blasted up the middle to take the ball on a good 20 metres before the ball found Tyler who cut the line before being tackled. Ks were adjudged to have offended at that ruck and the chance went begging. Tyler too limped off with a knee injury after this exchange so both centres were gone with barely a quarter of the match gone.
As the half drew to a close another almighty effort saw Kenilworth bulldoze the Oadby scrum and the resultant penalty was successfully converted by Kendall for the first points of the game.
The second half started in a much more positive vein; Purewal, who had a fine afternoon playing at wing-forward, took the kick off and smashed through two tackles before finding Lane who took the ball on but the move was whistled dead for Ks going off their feet at the ensuing ruck. The next Ks attack gave Kendall another pen and it seemed the game would be decided by the boot; Oadby scored their first points soon after when a 5m scrum went down. The next 3 attacks by Kenilworth took play deep into the Oadby half before errors stopped the progress and, completely against the run of play, Oadby levelled the score with another penalty. Having, dominated for so long, Kenilworth suddenly found themselves behind with another successful penalty and the Oadby 10, after a shaky start, was now a key influence on the game. With the exchange of penalties continuing Kenilworth showed a glimpse of what they were capable of; Renowden took a flat pass form the lineout to crash over and score close to the posts and the conversion gave Ks a 9-16 lead.
This should have been a defining moment of the game; this season has been marked by Kenilworth’s patience in overcoming such sides and, once a lead has been established, being able to push on and close the game out. But today was different and another series of errors saw Oadby eat away at the visitors’ lead. More good work from Kendall and Renowden gave Ks a good opportunity but a deliberate knock-on stopped the move and resulted in only a penalty which was missed. Back came Kenilworth with another huge scrum which saw the ball taken wide by Selby who found Lowthian for the score to continue his best season at the club. Surely now with 5 mins to go (although the first half had lasted 52 mins!) Ks could secure the win but having conceded another 3 points they went in search of the winning score. As the ball found its way to Renowden, the centre looked to put Clifford away but the ball was intercepted by Oadby who set off towards the Ks’ line. A series of phases later the ball was sent wide to the Oadby wing who touched down in the corner to secure the most unlikely of wins.
There is no way to dress this up and it’s not my intention to do so. Kenilworth were poor on this afternoon; after setting themselves such a high standard by their previous efforts this loss will hurt. True there were some key players missing and the injuries to the centres did not help matters but the players who came into the team performed well by and large. Oadby, to their credit, never quit on this game but our respective league positions don’t lie. With the biggest game of the season looming large it is vital that the team regroup, have a frank exchange of views on what went wrong and be ready to put it all right at Old Laurentians next week.