KENILWORTH 20 WALSALL 18
Kenilworth put the disappointment of last week well and truly behind them with a come-from-behind win against Walsall that was full of character and big on determination, writes Ralph Murray.
From the kick-off Selby set the tone with a searching box kick and a well-timed hit from Jepps following up gave Glover a chance but the full back recovered well and Walsall cleared. Blatant handling in the next ruck gave Hickman a chance to open the scoring and the full-back is on target for the opening score of the game
An error at the restart gave Kenilworth the put-in on half way and Walsall are penalised for dropping the scrum. Selby opted for the quick tap and found Thomson who beat his opposite number. The ball was spun out but fumbled in midfield. But the Ks are back on attack as Glover cut through the midfield before finding Tyler on his shoulder. The centre was hauled down 10m short and Walsall come in from all sides at the tackle to prevent quick ball, but no whistle. Eventually the ball was spilled and Walsall clear long but Hickman is straight back on attack mode. He shaped to pass outside but darts through the gap and with 20m to go finds Laney; the lock takes the ball in his stride and beats the pursuing defence to score. Another great kick from Hickman makes it 10-0.
As so often happens, one score is followed in short order by another in the opposite direction; Walsall work the ball inside the Kenilworth 22 before the maul is set up and eventually the ball is driven over in the corner. The ensuing kick is wide so the score is 10-5. Walsall are straight back on the attack from the restart and make good progress before a shuddering hit by Andreson results in a turnover. The penalty count is now badly lopsided and to add the hosts' woes captain Cresswell is off with a knee injury. The latest penalty gives Walsall a shot at goal; the kick is good and it's a 2-point game, 10-8.
With the points gap closing Kenilworth take the initiative and some great work by Lowthian steals the ball at the ruck and he finds Andreson 10m out from the Walsall line. The flanker steps the first tackle before being hauled to ground and the ball is out. Good lineout take from Lane secures ball inside the Walsall 22; a number of phases before and again the ball is in touch close to the line. Back on the attack and it's Lane who breaks the tackle and lunges for the line and looks to have scored but the ball is adjudged to have been held up. Walsall continue to infringe at the breakdown and a yellow is shown to the Walsall 6 for persistent offences. Hickman again takes full advantage and it's 13-6 as half-time is signalled.
Opening salvoes of the second half see Kenilworth encamped in the opposition 22 and stringing a number of phases together as they inch ever closer. Another infringement offers Kenilworth a chance to stretch the advantage but unusually Hickman pushes the kick wide right.
The momentum shifts in a heartbeat and a break out from nowhere sees the Walsall wing make good ground but as he crosses half-way the hosts look to have it covered but poor tackling allows a soft score and the missed conversion means we're all square at 13. Kenilworth do not have time to learn from their mistakes as another poor series of errors by Kenilworth allows another break by Walsall. Again the kick ahead looks covered by the back three but the bounce favours the onrushing Walsall backs and they take full advantage and run the ball in from halfway. The missed conversion limits the advantage to 13-18.
Kenilworth are now desperate to take something more from the game than a losing bonus point and their progress is only stopped by a dangerous high tackle from. A card looks the favourite sanction but amazingly it's just a talking to and a scrum to Kenilworth. The ball is eventually cleared and Kenilworth field the ball and look to attack again but another clothes-line tackle –more serious than the previous one – results in another long counselling session, but, again, no card!
Despite a series of decisions going against them, the Ks again look to strike. Glover takes a flat ball on his own 10m line and checks the options. Seeing a gap in the 10 channel, he darts through it and outruns the defence before switching to Hannam. The centre finishes well and a good conversion sees Kenilworth retake the lead and we're 20-18 with time almost up.
The whistle goes and Kenilworth take the spoils when it seemed the odds were stacked against them. But an admirable characteristic of this team is they never know when to quit and they got their reward for their determination.