Leek 17 Kenilworth 22
From a very indifferent start to the game, Kenilworth managed to turn things around in the second period to inflict a rare home defeat on the Staffordshire side, writes Ralph Murray.
The writing was on the wall in the days before this fixture with Kenilworth having to shuffle the pack with many players playing out of position and others returning to the game following long absences. From the kick off the early play was error strewn as both sides looked for an advantage, Alex Selby looked to break the deadlock with a chip-and-chase but play was called back and the returning Harry O'Brien opened the Ks' account with a well struck penalty. As Leek looked to get back on terms the Kenilworth defence continued its good form and, from one turnover, Harry O'Brien made a searching break down the right flank and was within metres of the line as he looked to offload. The pass was astray and the Leek full back intercepted and saw an opportunity to break from deep; he did much more than that by running the ball all the way to the other end of the field to give Leek an easily-converted try and the lead. Now the hosts looked to maintain momentum and, after a series of phases in the Ken red zone, crossed again and the signs were ominous at 3-14. Almost from the restart the Leek full-back chipped ahead and the Kenilworth players looked on as he gathered and headed for the line. Only an outstanding chase and tackle from Mikkel Andresen prevented further misery for the visitors. The rest of the first half saw Kenilworth on the back foot and relying on resolute defence to keep the score at 14-3.
The first 10 mins after the restart saw Kenilworth on the offensive; one maul got to within metres of the line before being interrupted by three consecutive penalties as Leek sought any means to stem the tide. There was still nothing to show for the good work and Dale Glover, taking the ball from Selby, slashed a wild lateral kick across the pitch which a surprised Hannam gratefully received and barged over for the score. O'Brien added 2 and it is 14-10. Leek responded immediately and were within 10m of the line when play was called back for a penalty; the kick was successful and the lead was back to a converted try. Bobby Thompson, at the heart of so much during this game, secured the restart and surged up the field. The ball was moved quickly and found the returning Jack Gibson who took the outside route to outpace the defence. With the full-back to beat he stepped effortlessly past him to glide over for an outstanding score – and this from a man who hadn't played for a year due to a shoulder injury!
All square and into the final quarter. Bobby Thompson again instigated the attack and looked to find Alex Selby outside him but the ball was slapped down by the Leek wing who sees yellow for his troubles. The visitors look to take full advantage and appear to have driven over but no signal; Leek were now in a minor meltdown as the prop took a swing at prop Mat Gibson and he too gets to sit down for 10 minutes. Now the game's afoot and the extra men provide an outlet pass to the excellent Ross Lowthian; 5 metres out and two defenders between him and the line but the prop will not be denied and he smashes over to put Kenilworth into the lead with minutes to play.
Kenilworth hold out for a good win and, despite all the negatives, dug deep to find a way out of a hole they themselves were largely guilty of creating. With Sam Flowers and Jack Gibson returning after long absences having good games, the tireless Tom Lane switching to the back row and evergreen prop Nick Collett finding a new home at lock the side was very much makeshift. Losing those early scores might have done for lesser sides but sound defence, good discipline and a firm resolve saw them home.
Next up are the undefeated league leaders, Newport at Glasshouse Lane on 13th Dec.