A comprehensive win for Kenilworth as they continue their solid start to the season. At times they exhibited a real freedom to their play which, combined with solid basics, proved too much for a game Barkers side, writes Ralph Murray.
Right from the off, Kenilworth made their attacking intentions clear and the opening salvoes were testing the Barkers defence and forced them to conceding the first penalty of the game, Josh Hickman duly opening the account. From the restart Barkers offended again at the loose and it was becoming clear that the ref was having no nonsense at this phase of play. With play again inside the visitors' 22, prop Ross Lowthian made a brilliant steal from the Barkers lock at the lineout and the maul was established. The pack surged over for the other prop Nick Collett to score the first try of the afternoon and continue his good form this season.
The next period saw Kenilworth continue to take the game to Barkers with Bobby Thompson seemingly at the heart of everything; the Kenilworth 8 had a fine afternoon and looked to create something with every touch. But all of this industry produced no points as, more often than not, an unforced error brought the move to a halt. The pressure eventually gave the Ks a scrum 5 and, with the drive established and a penalty advantage signalled, it was fittingly Thompson who crashed over for the score and the added 2 by Hickman produced a 15-0 lead.
It was from this latest score that the shackles came off; Kenilworth were now playing with real adventure and the inter-play between backs and forwards was a joy to watch. Even pinned inside their 22 the hosts used handling and guile to play their way out of trouble. With the momentum building an extended injury break provided a pause for breath and immediately afterwards Kenilworth were slow to get back to speed and Barkers took the initiative to maul over for their first try of the afternoon.
The Ks were now striving to get back to the tempo that had served them so well and the game was being played in the visitors half; one such attack was cleared by Barkers but winger Joe Jepps looked to counter before being felled by a dangerous high tackle. Play continued and Kenilworth again mauled towards the line; with some niggle at the fringes flanker Ed Holmes stuck to the task and sauntered over untouched for another home score. The conversion by Hickman made it 22-5.
Kenilworth were also having to absorb pressure and they were doing it well; a swarming defensive scheme was stifling much of the Barkers attack and one such move forced the Barkers 10 to chip ahead but Ed Hannam had read it well and cleared well as half time was called.
The second half began with Barkers making the plays and winning two penalties in quick succession but there was nothing to show for their efforts. A worrying injury to Butts skipper Wooldridge produced a long delay and eventually the prop had to be carefully moved from the field to receive further treatment.
With play restarted, Kenilworth wasted no time in resuming the fray and a maul close to the line produced good ball for Joe Jepps to score the bonus-point try and with another successful conversion from Hickman the lead was now up to 29-5. As stand off Dale Glover stepped two defenders the offload went astray and the Butts winger seized his chance and chipped ahead. He looked to have won the foot race but a stunning effort from Rhys Jones, running from the opposite touchline, denied a certain try.
The champagne phase had now officially begun and the handling and speed of thought was not only providing a rich spectacle but making them difficult to live with. One such move looked odds on for a score as Jai Purewal's final pass to Arthur Haynes put the winger away but the ball was lost forward. Patience is a virtue and the next move saw Bobby Thomson in a scoring position but he spotted Rhys Jones cutting a great line and he offloaded to the speedster to touch down under the sticks. No let up now and second rower Tom Lane was involved in the next attack but was felled by a high tackle. The referee had seen enough and a yellow card for the Butts lock added further misery to the visitors' day. There was however still time for more scoring as James Jackson, a former colt making his first XV debut, got on the scorecard with a fine try from a lineout. With the game now secure and scrums uncontested, the Butts 9 took advantage of some poor defence to record a consolation score just before the end.
So the great start to the season continues. Kenilworth are now 5 from 6 and could so easily have been 100% but with sterner tests ahead the momentum could yet prove decisive.
NOTE; the prolonged injury to Butts skipper Matt Wooldridge was worrying; even more so when he was still receiving treatment half an hour after the game had ended. I am happy to report that Matt was discharged from hospital on Saturday evening with a clean bill of health.