Stratford on Avon 22 Kenilworth 14
Kenilworth's winning start to the season came to an abrupt end at Loxley Lane where a lacklustre performance against a committed Stratford side saw them leave empty handed, writes Ralph Murray.
From the start, a pattern was established which continued throughout the game, Kenilworth spent a large proportion of the game without the ball. This meant that the Ks defence were under relentless pressure and it is tribute to their resilience that the score remained as low as it did. The early part of the game was punctuated by only two penalties, one for each side, and it seemed that every score would be precious. The deadlock was finally broken when Stratford, attacking through the backs, put boot to ball and sent a grubber into the corner. The kick seemed to favour the defender but the Stratford winger was more alert and won the race to the touchdown. The missed conversion kept the advantage to 5 points for the home side and it looked as if it would stay that way until the interval but, with time running down, Kenilworth infringed and Stratford brought the score to 11-3 as the half-time whistle sounded.
After a pretty barren first half it was Kenilworth who opened the scoring in the second half; an early penalty from Josh Hickman reduced the deficit to just 5 points. But the home side resumed where they left off by spending long periods inside the Kenilworth 22 and built pressure continuously. Only some desperate defence from Ed Hannam prevented a certain score as the ball was held up but this only delayed the inevitable. Soon after Stratford scored again from close range but, with the conversion missed, the damage was limited to a 16-6 advantage.
This latest score appeared to have finally stung Kenilworth into a firm response and they made good progress to the Stratford 22 before winning a penalty. The kick was quickly taken and Kenilworth moved the ball left but the final pass was astray and the chance went begging. But the attack was resumed as Kenilworth took the lineout and drove towards the Stratford line. Renowden decided to move the ball inside and skipper Jonny Cresswell, continuing his good run of form, crashed over from short range and the deficit had been reduced to 16-11. From the kick off, Stratford kicked long and Joe Yeomanson seemed to have it covered as he passed inside to Josh Hickman but the full-back decided to run the ball out. Stratford had predicted well and caught the 15 in possession and he was forced to concede a penalty. The successful kick took Kenilworth out of bonus point range.
With less than a quarter of the match remaining, the visitors were trying desperately to secure some return for their efforts with the returning Mikkel Andersson having again made his mark. The young Dane secured a good lineout and followed up with another burst through the open-side to continue the attack. Eventually Kenilworth won a penalty near the half-way line and the limited time made the decision easier; Josh Hickman duly obliged and a losing bonus point looked to have been secured.
But the added time allowed Stratford to again threaten the Ks" line and they took play inside the opposition 22 before the visitors turned the ball over. Mikkel Andersson again was the carrier of choice and he looked to run the ball out before being stopped by what looked a high tackle but nothing called. The next whistle was for a Kenilworth infringement and the successful kick proved the final act of the game and Kenilworth were denied even a bonus point for their efforts.
An out-of-sorts display from the Ks contrasted sharply with the performance of the previous two games. This was a game in which they never truly found their rhythm and, as a result, their play was disjointed and often halted by an unforced error. There was some outstanding defence; how else can the lopsided possession count not have produced more points for the home side? But this group have not become a bad team overnight; Cresswell again lead tirelessly and Tyler continued his season's strong showing. They are capable of so much better and the visit of Walsall next Saturday will provide ample opportunity for them to display that.