Kenilworth 16 Newport 58
As the score suggests, the visit from the league leaders was an emphatic defeat for Kenilworth but that does not tell the whole story. Against such an organised and well-funded outfit, the Ks kept it close until the interval but the professionalism of the visitors eventually told, writes Ralph Murray.
On a crisp, bright winter afternoon at Glasshouse, the faithful were bracing themselves for an onslaught from the pacesetters in Midlands 1 West but the early exchanges were fairly even with the Ks making good use of the maul. Newport's defence was well drilled and from an early turnover they made a clinical break, recycling well to produce an overlap right and record the opening score. Kenilworth, to their credit, came straight back at Newport but, having made good field position, seemed to lose most of the collisions and the ball inevitably ended up on the visitors' side. The counter attack was swift and with the point of attack constantly changing, the Newport 10 crashed over for the second score. Now it looked as if the visitors would score at will but the Ks again showed great effort in taking the game to Newport and won a penalty for their efforts which Harry O'Brien nailed to get his side on the board. The pressure was maintained as the next home attack got to within 5m of the line before the ball was switched left to find Joe Yeomanson; the wing finished a fine move and the gap was down to 8-12. Joe Yeomanson continued to make a mark as he intercepted the next Newport attack and headed for the line. He was eventually hauled down and Kenilworth were penalised at the ensuing ruck.
Newport were stung into greater effort and mounted a series of punishing surges close to the line but the Kenilworth defence was outstanding and repelled the threat. But a feature of this game was the inability of Kenilworth to find touch from defensive penalties and this cost them dear. Newport now knew they were in an arm wrestle and when a penalty opportunity presented itself, they opted for a shot at goal to extend the lead and this they duly achieved. Again the Ks look to take the initiative and a clever kick and chase from Dale Glover caused indecision in the Newport defence and Ks were within 5m again. Harry O'Brien sent a cross field kick in the direction of Joe Yeomanson but, in attempting to offload, the winger's pass was astray and the chance to turn round all square was gone. The final kick of the half was another successful kick from Newport to make the half-time score 8-18.
The second half was a different affair; a combination of Newport's organisation and smart play combined with a draining first half effort from Kenilworth conspired to see the visitors run in 3 tries in quick succession. With the flood gates open Kenilworth's woes were added to when flanker Ed Holmes received a yellow card for a late tackle; Newport wasted no time in using the advantage and scored again. Meltdown was now officially underway as Rhys Jones saw Yellow for a seemingly innocuous act of not moving out of the referee's way quickly enough!
Full marks for the remaining Ken players for never throwing in the towel; a break out from the excellent Ross Lowthian made good ground before the ball found Nick Collett who moved the ball right to Pete Nancarrow. The flanker was still a way out but shimmied and stepped the defenders to score a "try of defiance".
Much to ponder from such a result. Yes the Ks were playing a side which is well coached and ruthless in execution but they also contributed to their own downfall; defensive penalties are vital in resetting the game after a period of pressure. Also, when sides realise they are taking the ball into contact, and turning the ball over as a result, a tactical rethink must be effected quickly to limit the damage. But there were bright spots too; the "never quit" attitude is inspiring and that missed score before the half could have resulted in a more even contest (but not a different result). So the Ks have played the big guns in the league and are sitting pretty in 5th (3 points away from being 3rd!); i think it's a fair assessment that they have punched above their weight and reducing the error count could see an even better return in 2015.