Champions! And with an exclamation mark. This was an emphatic performance by the league champions and a perfect way to close out a gruelling season.
After the past two weeks it seemed that the title, which had looked reasonably straightforward, could still slip from the Ks’ grasp if they were not fully on their game. The first set scrummage did nothing to calm the hearts of the Glasshouse Lane faithful as the home side got a big nudge on and a clear advantage was established early on. But Ks greater mobility would be a key factor in deciding this game and an early break by Gibson looked to have him en route to the line but as he cut inside the defence closed him down.
O’ Brien was to use the boot effectively all day and an early nudge put the ball close to the Bedworth line and the 8 seemed to have gathered but Middleton with a great chase caught him in possession and stripped the ball. Thompson following up gratefully accepted the offload and the first points of the day were on the board with a successful 2 from Kendall. A successful penalty for offside at a ruck gave Kendall another 3 and Ks were 10 points to the good with a quarter of an hour gone. With Renowden directing traffic from 9 a number of scoring opportunities were created but forward passes and one grubber kick which speedster Beckett only just failed to gather. But the pressure eventually told and Renowden went over from short range for another sniping score.
Tails up now and Kenilworth were looking to close this game out early; Thompson on a typical charge 5m out looked to have been held up but determination is one asset the Ks 8 has in skip loads and his persistence brought him his second try of the day.
At the start of the second half with a healthy lead of 24 points, O’Brien continues his intelligent use of the boot with a probing nudge ahead which Beckett gathers to add to the tally. It was at this point that the flood gates were officially opened; the backs in particular were playing with great fluency and one such break saw Sheehan time his pass to perfection to put the busy Middleton in for a score under the posts. Kenilworth were now running it from everywhere; Renowden, on his own 22, spun a miss pass out to Kendall who stepped neatly inside the centre to break the line. With Beckett outside the choice looked certain but seeing Sheehan inside with nobody between him and the line the full-back chose the inside line and the advantage was above 40 points. Sheehan added another try only a minute later. With confidence sky-high the next few minutes saw Beckett put the exclamation mark on the victory; receiving the ball in his 22 he set off on one of those mazy runs which, on this occasion, was stopped in midfield. But the winger was not to be denied; good work by O’ Brien put him away for his second of the afternoon. Soon after, Renowden stood the Bedworth 8 up as he attempted to pick up from the base and Thompson, supporting well, stripped the ball and timed the pass to the accelerating Beckett perfectly; the winger completing his hat-trick in some style. But it wasn’t all attack – the Bedworth winger looked to have a good chance to score and chipped over Beckett but, even having to turn, Ks Billy Whizz still beat the attacker to the ball to snuff out the threat.
A great phase of play by the Kenilworth back-row saw the ball reach Gibson and in the act of being tackled produced a sublime offload to Middleton who sprinted over for yet another score. With time running down and the result beyond doubt, Bedworth were determined not to be “nilled” and managed a driving score from close range for a consolation try. Soon after this score the final whistle sounded and Kenilworth were officially champions of Midlands 2 West (South).
This was a gruelling season and not one without its searing highs and dark lows but ultimately this was a deserved championship when one considers the home and away wins over the nearest rivals. A couple of years ago this club took a long, hard look at itself and needed to redefine the club’s raison d’etre and indeed its aims. Chairman Peter Blakeman sat down with young Cresswell and explained his vision which the young hooker bought into as the club captain. But there is a chasm between a vision and its execution and much credit has to go to the coaching staff of Gibson, Owen and Selby for making this vision a reality. The esprit de corps exhibited by the young squad is what made the team able to respond to the lows with the type of heroic performance exhibited at Old Laurentians- which ultimately changed the dynamic of the season.
All of this has conspired to make KRFC a happy place to play and socialise – surely the endgame for all Rugby Clubs? The 1st XV has done much to create this with their performance on the field and their determined socialising in the clubhouse after the game. We say goodbye to two of their number with O’Brien and Todd heading off to study – both have contributed enormously to the club’s success and we wish them well. Next season will certainly be a stern challenge but momentum and belief are precious commodities in sport and the club has large quantities of both right now.