Kenilworth 21 Silhillians 19
Recent games involving these two teams have been thrilling close encounters played in the true spirit of the game and Saturday's encounter was no exception, writes Ralph Murray.
The first quarter of an hour produced no score but did not lack for industry as both teams worked hard to gain the upper hand. A sustained period of pressure from Sills was eventually cleared by Josh Hickman who found a good touch inside the visitors' 22. Kenilworth won an untidy ball but eventually it was new boy Mikkel Andreson who picked up and darted through the defence, sitting one would-be tackler down on his way. As the Ken 6 was eventually brought down on the Sills' 22, an offside call gave the hosts an opportunity to open their account but captain Jonny Cresswell had other ideas. Taking a quick tap ball he straightened for the line before finding standoff Alex Selby on a perfect line on his shoulder and the fly-half touched down between the sticks. A successful conversion by Josh Hickman gave Kenilworth a 7-0 lead with half an hour played.
The score provided a change in momentum and Kenilworth looked to increase their advantage. Another good touch-finder provided another attacking platform and, with the ball secured, the Kenilworth pack began the maul to the line. The ball was spun out to Alex Selby who looked for the inside scissors to Rhys Jones but a missed communication resulted in a turnover. Sills now looked to add some momentum of their own but an error in midfield saw the ball knocked-on and Alex Selby, having limited options, dropped a neat chip behind the Sills defence for another attacking lineout. The throw in was fielded by the Sills 9 who looked to box-kick but great chase by flanker Pete Nancarrow charged down and secured the ball for the home side. The ball was spun out to Alex Selby who stepped the first defender before a slick inside ball found Jonny Cresswell on the charge. The captain looked certain to score but was held up just short by some stout defence but the leader would not be denied and touched down with a great second effort. Again Josh Hickman added the extras and the hosts were 2 scores ahead with the interval in sight. One final surge saw the ever-industrious scrum half Gareth Renowden send a delightful box kick over the Sills defensive line and only a last-gasp effort by the full back prevented Rhys Jones from adding a third.
Sills began the second half at a gallop and were looking to get back on terms early; a series of moves saw the left wing in acres of space and a seemingly easy run to the line but a great effort from substitute Jimmy Middleton prevented a certain score. The next 10 mins proved somewhat barren as Sills efforts were largely nullified by some impressive defence from Kenilworth with the new-look back row particularly noticeable. But pressure would eventually tell and, after a series of punishing runs close to the line, the visitors scored a deserved first try of the afternoon and the successful conversion halved the deficit at 14-7.
Sills looked to use this momentum shift to get back on terms and a break out from their own 22 sent the centre away with only Gareth Renowden to beat. That term "only" is inappropriate as "Mr Commitment" again proved his mettle with a sure hit on the ball carrier. But the threat was only relieved when, at the resultant scrum, Sills were penalised for wheeling. Worse was to come for the visitors as their prop was shown a yellow card for what can only have been backchat.
Ken looked to make the man advantage count and a great nudge provided go-forward ball for Gareth Renowden to work with. The Kens' 9 picked up smartly and beat his opposite number before Josh Hickman took the offload having hit the line with a well-timed run. The full-back showed great pace as he rounded the Sills' 6 before crossing for the third try of the afternoon for the home side. After a heated "discussion" among the candidates for kicking duties some 5 minutes earlier, Tyler silenced the critics with a clinical strike to add the conversion and put the home side 2 clear scores ahead. But Sills responded without delay; having secured ball from a lineout inside the Ken 22, the ball was worked smartly through the hands but a great hit from winger Arthur Haynes looked to have snuffed the threat. Poor tackling by the home side and some good work from the Sills 13 sees the centre cross for a second try but the missed conversion maintained Kenilworth's 2-score advantage at 21-12.
Sills now sensed the change in momentum and were again pressing down the right flank when it appeared that Arthur Haynes was impeded on his way to the ball carrier. The error proved costly as the visitors took full advantage to score under the posts and the successful kick meant that the gap was now a mere 2 points at 21-19.
There are moments which truly define a game and affect its outcome and on the next Sills attack we witnessed such a cameo. With the ruck formed and Sills pressing, Jonny Cresswell thundered into the pile and drove the attackers backwards to free the ball and hack it forwards. That would have been a valuable play on its own but the captain followed it up with a lung-bursting effort to hound the full-back as he attempted to secure the ball. In the resultant scavenge the hooker won possession and the put-in at the resultant scrum – talk about leading by example!
With time running down Kenilworth were looking to close the game out as they pushed close to the Sills line. Following a penalty for a deliberate collapse, Renowden chipped the ball dead to end another enthralling contest. So a game of mixed fortunes for Kenilworth with some wonderful attacking play only let down by monetary lapses. The new look back-row were first class with the new 6, Mikkel Andreson, having a standout debut.
Silhillians, once again, came to play and provided the big crowd a game of real excitement and no little skill. These two teams are becoming fierce rivals but never at the expense of the spirit of the game and that is to both teams' credit.