WARWICKSHIRE CUP, ROUND 1
OLD COVENTRIANS 17 KENILWORTH 21
The season campaign began in earnest with a Warwickshire Cup tie away to Old Coventrians and, although a league below the visitors, the OC's provided a stern test and very nearly claimed the spoils, writes Ralph Murray.
The match began under an overcast sky on a pitch in very good condition and it wasn't long before the first points of the game were registered. A long touch-finder produced a lineout inside the OCs' 22 and good pressure from James Wadey resulted in turnover ball and he headed for the line. A well timed inside pass to Bobby Thompson gave the flanker an easy run-in under the sticks and Josh Hickman added 2 to give Kenilworth a 0-7 lead with only minutes on the board.
Shortly after Kenilworth fielded a ball in their own 22 and started a move which was to prove the highlight of the afternoon; the ball was moved left and right at pace in a demonstration of 15-man Rugby and, as the ball was swung wide left, Marko Stanojevic went over in the corner for an outstanding score. Fittingly the extras were added with Josh Hickman slotting the conversion from the touchline against a stiff breeze.
Bobby Thompson then recovered a spilt pass in his own 22 and with a great pass of the floor puts Rhys Jones away who eventually found Alex Selby; the 10 put in a probing chip behind the defence and it looked on but a 3 on 1 was not taken and the chance went begging. Tis seemed to spur OC's who converted this defence into their first real attack of the game; well executed moves brought them close to the Kenilworth line and a series of runs were repelled by the visitors. The attack eventually stalled when the ball was lost in the tackle in midfield and Ross Lowthian, ever alert, snapped up the loose ball and set off up the field. With James Wadey backing up well some interchanges between the two forwards brought play to half way before they eventually allowed the speedster Rhys Jones to take possession and outrun the defence to score a good opportunist try. Josh Hickman was on the money again and with barely half an hour gone the Ks were 21 points to the good.
So the omens were good that this was going to be a good start for the Ks' campaign and it seemed that the team had found its groove right from the off.
But OC's were now stirred and a series of drives kept them close to the Ken line for long periods; eventually the pressure told and the hosts recorded their first points of the afternoon. A missed conversion brought the score to 5-21 as the half ended.
The first score of the second half brought OC's another score; another series of pick-and-go's stretched the Ks defence and a try was scored from short range. A missed conversion meant that the lead was now down to 10-21. Kenilworth were now making a series of unforced errors and at the same time the OC's were on the up; another slick series of passes and a huge overlap on the left flank looked to have given them a walk-in until a superb last-ditch effort from Ross Lowthian brought the chance to a crashing halt. The K's continued to look ring rusty as OC's capitalised on another error and this time made sure of the full score and were now within 4 at 17-21.
With the clock running down, Kenilworth were guilty of not looking after the ball and OC's could sense an upset. Hooker Matt Gibson saw yellow for a deliberate knock-on and matters become even worse as captain Jonny Cresswell received the same punishment after only being on the field a short time. But Kenilworth hung on for the win but with much to ponder with the league season just around the corner.