Kenilworth, faced with another mammoth game, came through with a fine performance and opened up a 5-point lead at the top of their Midlands 2 division. Although the game ended on a sour note there was much to admire from the Glasshouse Lane boys with some fine individual performances and a collective will-to-win.
Droitwich arrived with a run of good results that had not seemed likely when we first met earlier in the season; 13 good wins from 18 tells its own story. Physically they were one of the larger teams to visit Kenilworth this season so the scene was set for an interesting clash of styles. The first few minutes of the game saw both teams testing the other out and when Kenilworth mounted the first real attack of the game the visitors showed rush defence but were penalised for preventing release at the ensuing ruck. Kendall made no mistake and, with 5 minutes gone, Kenilworth were 3 points to the good.
Soon after the restart the size of the task facing the leaders became clear; the first set scrummage was alarmingly one-sided and Droitwich would look to build on this all afternoon. Although the first few engagements put the home side under pressure, a combination of quick strike and good harrying by Renowden on their feed did much to annul the advantage. Lineouts proved a more even contest and some good defence by Kenilworth stopped a series of rolling mauls before being pinged for offside. The Droitwich 10 made good with the kick and on the quarter hour we were all square.
Ks launched into another series of attacks in an attempt to up the tempo but hands in the ruck followed by some backchat from the Droitwich flanker made Kendall’s attempt at last 10m easier and the three-point advantage was restored. Kenilworth were now on a run of sustained attacks with a series of good phases but the ball was kicked away from a ruck by a stray boot; despite this, Ks recovered the ball and were within 5m of a score when they were penalised for offside. The long clearance kick bounced awkwardly and a chance looked on but some good tidying work by Gibson (who had another industrious afternoon) cleared the danger before being hauled into touch. Again Kenilworth go on offence but hands in the ruck deny them quick ball and when the ball finally became available, Holton’s slip pass was slapped down by the Droitwich 10. A penalty was adjudged the appropriate result and Kendall stretched the lead to 9-3.
The home side were now “on it” and Droitwich were finding it hard to live with the pace being put on the game; time and time again attacks were being stopped by ruck offences. Todd making a nuisance of himself on the opposition throw-in was followed up by Thompson who set Beckett away on one of those runs but was stopped by a high tackle. The half came to a close with a 12-3 advantage to Kenilworth.
Second half began with Beckett taking a clearance kick and tore up the right wing before finding a good touch. A series of phases within 5m of the line finally produced a score when Thompson, collecting the ball from the ruck, took matters into his own hands and went over form short range for the first try of the afternoon. The elements now came into play with some surging rain and a biting wind making playing conditions awkward but the gloom was broken by one of those Beckett moments that have become almost obligatory. The winger collected the ball 22m out on the right touchline and with a throng of Droitwich defenders between him and the line nothing much looked on – wrong! Sleight of feet and head-fakes the NBA would be proud of saw him dance his way inside and out and hand-off the last tackler to score a scintillating try to effectively close out the game with 20 to go.
The last quarter of the game saw Kenilworth strive to add to the try count in an attempt to gain the crucial bonus point but it was not to be. With time running out, Beckett went off on another of his runs but this time the entertainment was brought to a halt by the fist of the Droitwich lock which left the speedster knocked out on the turf. He was helped groggily from the field by teammates - a rather undignified end to a sparkling performance. His assailant marched off under his own steam having been awarded a yellow card for his efforts.
Commitment – that is the precious commodity this group has in skip-loads. This comes in many forms; commitment to the shirt, the club, the title are all admirable but it is their unshakeable commitment to one another that has taken them this far and will hopefully bring them their ultimate prize.