Kenilworth 18 Old Laurentians 14
A nip in the air and the threat of rain to follow greeted OLs on their visit to Glasshouse Lane for this Midlands 1 West fixture. Kenilworth, having returned to winning ways last week at Market Bosworth were safe in the knowledge that they would be playing in this division next season. OLs, on the other hand, came into this game knowing that a slip-up would make survival all the more difficult.
OLs began the afternoon with real intent as the kick-off is recovered and the ball is swiftly moved out to the left wing who broke the first tackle and looked to have a clear run to the line but outstanding defence by Renowden kept the scoreboard idle. More OLs offense seemed to have been stifled but play is called back for an earlier offence and the visitors opened the scoring with a penalty. But this stirred the hosts into life and the next 10 minutes were almost exclusively spent in the OLs half with a series of good attacking moves. One such passage saw full-back Tyler (who looks increasingly comfortable at the 15 slot) take the high ball and step the first tackler before setting Wadey off down the right flank. As if to display both sides of his game, it was Tyler who snuffed out the next OLs attack with a thundering hit on the visitors’ 10 which jarred the ball loose and Kenilworth recovered. The ball was worked to Purewal who stepped the defender and rushed towards the line but with 10m to go he opted for the inside ball to the ever-present Wadey. Wadey continued the progress and had the option for the return to Purewal but the big No. 8 backed himself and his momentum carried him over for the first try of the day.
Just as the run of play was beginning to suggest that Kenilworth would start to take hold of this game, OLs were awarded a pen out at the touchline but the fly-half struck the ball true and OLs were back in front. But back came Kenilworth with a strike against the head which was all the invitation Thompson needed as he set off on one of his customary charges; held up just short, he kept possession which allowed Wadey another surge for the line. Again the line was not breached and the ball was recycled by Renowden with a flat pass to Glover who scythed his way through the defence to score close to the posts. Tyler added the 2 and Kenilworth were in front by 12-6.
There now followed a fallow period where neither side could offer any continuity nor the deadlock was only broken by a howitzer kick from Hickman from half-way; it seemed that the touch finder would be the preferred option but up stepped the wing to slot the three. As the interval approached the impetus shifted back to the visitors as they spent long periods within the Ks 22 but all to no avail as the referee brought the half to an end.
The second period started with a very uncompromising set of exchanges from both sides and the seriousness of the fixture from the visitors’ point of view was becoming clear to see. But Kenilworth broke against the run of play and displayed some great hands to set Beckett away who shrugged off a rather weak obstruction attempt from the OLs winger! The ball was within yards of the OLs line but, despite multiple pick-and-go attacks, the score remained unchanged and a penalty finally relived the pressure. Another period of pressure – this time close to the Kenilworth line – was the response from OLs and it appeared that the defence had weathered the storm. But a change of tactic brought the desired effect and the OLs maul their way back into contention. The restart saw OLs retake possession and Kenilworth were forced into more desperate defence until a knock-on seemed to have brought some relief to the home side. Amazingly the decision went the other way with a pen close to the 22 and successfully converted meant that the Kenilworth lead was a single point, despite having played the majority of the rugby and having created a number of chances which had gone astray.
Kenilworth decided that attack was the best route to closing this game out and began a late assault on the OLs line. One such attack was stopped with a deliberate knock-on close to the line; it looked as if the sanction would be severe but a penalty was deemed sufficient and Hickman nailed it to provide some breathing room. Again the offense was coming from the side in blue and yellow and set up for a scrum in an attacking position but, in a recurring feature of this game, they were penalised for “wheeling” and the game remained wide open. In the final moments play became hectic and unstructured as Kenilworth looked to close the deal but the referee called time and the relief was palpable.
With so much resting on this fixture there was always the risk of play becoming fractured and, at times, desperate. However, the overriding impression one took from this game is that Kenilworth would be rather disappointed at the level of return from all their industry. Some fine individual performances punctuated a display with high commitment but let down by the final pass or an unforced error. But following the wretched opening to the year it was vital that Kenilworth built on last week’s success and that they did; another two wins would see the season out well and send the boys off for their summer break in good heart.