Earlsdon 14 Kenilworth 36
A welcome break in the recent cold weather produced a glorious day at Mitchell Avenue for another key game in Kenilworth’s quest for the title. Earlsdon had put together a good series of wins in the past two months, their only loss a narrow one at Droitwich, so Kenilworth were in no doubt as to the task ahead of them. Going into the game, a hastily reworked back-row was a key area for concern with Simon Tyler and Ross Lowthian accompanying stalwart No 8 Thompson at the back of the scrum.
The Kenilworth faithful had clearly heeded the calls for big support and may have outnumbered the home supporters at their near neighbours; they were certainly more vocal. The fine weather and a firm looking pitch suggested a running game and the early minutes did much to support this; both sides looking to get wide at every opportunity. After a series of stalled attacks Kenilworth opened the scoring for the afternoon with a typical sniping try from Renowden; Beckett had made another high-speed dash down the right wing before being tackled just short of the line. The ball was quickly recycled and after another series of rucks the Kenilworth 9 saw the opening and darted over with Kendall adding the 2 to make it 0-7. Almost immediately the visitors had a great chance to add to their tally but a fine last-ditch tackle gave Earlsdon possession and they turned this good defensive play into attack with a fine run up the left wing. Only a foot in touch prevented the winger opening the home account.
Kenilworth clearly heeded this warning and produced a series of promising moves but time and again these came to nought due to poor handling or wayward passing. Just before the half-hour play was stopped due to a serious looking injury to Holton; cruel luck on the centre who has only recently returned to top flight rugby following another injury. More offence from Ks sees Renowden put in a good touchfinder to put his side in striking distance and a penalty from the ensuing lineout gives Kendall a chance to stretch the lead but the shot goes wide right. Earlsdon now made the most of the let-off with some fine running and passing between Roberts and Forsyth with the scrum-half stepping the final defender to score under the posts and the successful conversion levelled the scores. That might have been the way the half ended but an individual piece of wizardry from Tyler rewrote that script; picking the ball up 22m out he stepped the two approaching defenders and looked for options before deciding he had the measure of the full back. He did – and a fine score at a critical time meant that Kenilworth went into the break with some critical momentum.
Ks began the second half briskly but a feature of this game was the error count and the early moves were all halted in this way. Deadlock was broken after Middleton fielded a kick deep in his half and stepped his way to midfield. Renowden made another break from the ensuing scrum to put Wadey away who in turn found Thompson, as ever backing up well, the 8 going over for a try to provide more breathing distance between the sides. Kenilworth had looked out of sorts at times during this game but now looked a lot more confident and more attack brought further infringement and Kendall stretched the lead to 7-24. But Earlsdon were not done and were attacking well inside the 22 before some great work from Thompson turned D to A and the ball was moved swiftly out for what looked like a run-in for Beckett but the final pass went astray and the chance was lost.
As Ks went in search of the priceless bonus point they were awarded a scrum in a good attacking position and this was an area where the visitors enjoyed a big advantage all afternoon. It has to be said that this advantage was limited by some great clean-up work at the back of the scrum between the Earlsdon 8 & 9 and they did it again here to clear the danger. The next 10 minutes saw the home side growing in confidence and came close to scoring on a number of occasions and finally succeeded through a combination of naïve defending and an opportunist break by Roberts to make the score 14-24.
As the game entered the final quarter another piece of individual brilliance changed the mood of the game. Renowden in his own 22 chipped ahead and set off to follow his kick but the Earlsdon 15 appeared to have it covered. As the ball hovered above them Renowden timed his leap to perfection and, with the kind of commitment we’ve come to expect from the 9, held onto the ball despite a shuddering landing. The ball was moved quickly to Tyler who coasted over for his second and the precious bonus point. Their tails up, Kenilworth were now rampant and some wonderful interplay in the backs saw the ball find Renowden who went over for his second and just reward for another outstanding show of commitment from the classy half-back. As the game drew to a close Ks picked up another couple of injuries with captain Cresswell looking to have re-fractured a thumb damaged earlier in the year; young Colt Ed Hannam coming on for what proved a fine debut.
So the game ended with Kenilworth deserving winners over a spirited Earlsdon side but there was much to learn from the afternoon. Errors cost the Ks dear; straying from the basics of the game resulted in a lot of points being left out there and too often they were guilty of looking for the miracle pass instead of what has served them so well this season. The rejigged back-row was a major disruption but at times the side looked to drift in and out of the game; this must be addressed if injuries continue to mount. But the resolve was there – again – and ultimately this is what won the game in challenging conditions.