EARLSDON 20 KENILWORTH 34
On an unseasonably warm and sunny day for November, Kenilworth looked to continue their winning ways with a visit to local rivals Earlsdon, writes Ralph Murray.
Kenilworth set off at a healthy pace and looked to make all the early running but, too often, the attacks foundered on poor decision making or the ref's whistle. As the attacks continued, one such move produced a spectacular series of passes which looked odds on to produce one of the scores of the season but no try was given and Earlsdon cleared their lines. On the rare occasions in this opening period that Earlsdon ventured into the Ks' half the visitors' defence was more than up to the job. The pressure finally brought reward as an attempted clearance from Earlsdon was charged down by Ed Hannam and Arthur Haynes crossed to open the scoring and, in what was to become a feature of the afternoon, Josh Hickman kicked an extremely difficult conversion.
The pressure on Earlsdon's line continued unabated but, too often, the Kenilworth players were taking their passes standing still and not extracting the maximum advantage from their endeavours. Some of the attacks were halted by the tackler not releasing or other infringements at the breakdown and eventually this resulted in a penalty allowing Hickman to extend the lead to 0-10.
Just as Kenilworth looked to be establishing a dominant position they allowed their opponents into the game with some poor tackling allowing the Earlsdon flanker to score despite a suspicion of a forward pass and some crossing involved. But the Ks response was immediate as James Wadey picked up from the set scrum and found scrum half Gareth Renowden who faked right before crashing over close to the post. Josh Hickman was again successful with the extras. Earlsdon looked to respond in kind and with an attacking scrum 10m out were in a good position to do so. Despite the tight-head scrummaging at near 45 degrees this went unpunished but still the visitors' defence stood firm as half-time was called at 7-17.
Asleep at the restart, Kenilworth allowed Earlsdon a further lifeline as some sloppy defence saw the hosts open the second half scoring with a converted try. But that stirred Kenilworth into upping their game and a series of threatening moves looked to take back the initiative; one such attack saw winger Joe Jepps run from deep inside his 22 and make nearly 40m before the ref decided there had been some crossing earlier in the move and a successful penalty for Earlsdon made it 17 apiece. Time and again Kenilworth were prevented from making full use of their possession by the Earlsdon defence being continuously offside but no whistle. An unsavoury incident now produced a turning point in the match; an Earlsdon forward took exception to Josh Hickman retaining the ball and stamped on the full back in the head area for which he was shown a red card. By way of partial retribution, Hickman nailed the conversion but almost immediately the ref awarded a pen at the other end and Earlsdon were again level at 20 apiece.
A sense of urgency now took hold and Kenilworth were more definite in their attacks; the ball was passed through a series of hands to put winger Arthur Haynes away for his second try of the day. Again Hickman faced with the most challenging of angles made no mistake and it's a one-score game at 20-27. With time running down Rhys Jones breaks from his own line in search of the bonus point score; he finds other forwards and backs in support, the ball ending with Arthur Haynes on the left wing. There was still work to do but this was Haynes's day; he stepped the final defender and hugged the touchline to complete a fine hat-trick. Hickman can't miss and the day's work was complete.
Another win but sterner tasks await. Kenilworth made hard work of this but were deserved winners in the end but accuracy and decision making will need improving as matches against the league leaders are close at hand.