WHITCHURCH 16 KENILWORTH 17
Prior to Kenilworth's visit to Whitchurch, the league table suggested there was not much to choose between these two sides and so it proved. A spirited encounter provided the visitors with their 4th win from 5 but not without a few scares!, writes Ralph Murray.
Just time to draw breath from the kick off and the Ks are on the board; a break by Thompson from his 22 and ball was moved quickly through the hands to Jones who touches down with barely a minute gone. Hickman adds 3 and Kenilworth are off to the best possible start. Whitchurch look to respond immediately and work the ball to within 10m of the K line before the ball is spun right and Renowden looks to have timed his interception well but the ricochet off his own player placed him in an offside position. Whitchurch convert the pen and it's 3-7.
Good defence has been a hallmark of the Ks game this season and again is put to good use to stem a series of Whitchurch attacks; pressure is finally relieved when Renowden box kicks well to put Ks into Whitchurch territory. Again the hosts go on the offensive and the game plan is becoming clear; 2 decoy runners off the 10 but they are treading a fine line as contact often ensues. The ball is nudged towards the K line but Andresson covers well to secure possession on his own line before Selby clears, but the pressure remains.
Whitchurch enjoy a purple patch and the next series of moves sees the ball go left to find the winger in space. He makes a good step and looks to take on the full-back and cross but the defender seems to have done enough. Try is given and we're 8-7 down.
Kenilworth were now looking out of sorts and it seemed that Whitchurch would take a stranglehold on the game if the momentum was mot reversed. Ks pressing but Whitchurch break from their own 22 and the recent scorer finds himself one-on-one with Hickman again. This time the chip ahead is the weapon of choice and, despite a late tackle, the winger finishes well. With the score now at 13-7 the two quick tries could signal a sea change in the game if Kenilworth does not respond.
Kenilworth look to use the Thompson/Renowden axis at 8 & 9 as a platform for attack and the break from the base makes good ground before Thomson is tackled. Whitchurch are penalised for going off their feet and are finally penalised. Unusually the kick is wide left but Kenilworth maintain the offensive using the set scrum; first attempt results in the ball straight our but the next attempt sees Hickman find a good touch finder. Renowden sees Yeomanson wide right and makes a perfect chip for the winger but he is adjudged to have been in front.
Ks continue to attack win a penalty and Hickman makes no mistake this time and it's 13-10 with just over half an hour to go. Kenilworth is now straining to break the Whitchurch defence but it's a war of attrition in midfield with bad decisions continuing to frustrate. The visitors' cause is not helped by the sight of Renowden limping off, but the first set scrum after the injury sees Kenilworth take one against the head. A surging break by Collett makes 10m before finding Andreson. Ball quickly recycled and Hannam is left with 2 defenders to beat and the winger finishes in style. Hickman nails a ripper from the corner and the Ks are back in front at 13-17.
Ks asleep at the restart and Whitchurch march down the field and win a penalty as Kenilworth are pinged for holding on. Good kick makes it a single-point game at 16-17! With time running down Whitchurch try everything to gain the advantage but slip up as the tight-head uses hands to secure the put-in and Hickman clears to their 22. Ken's playing keep ball at the scrum as the clock winds down but Whitchurch force a turnover and mount one last attack. For the first time this afternoon the Whitchurch decoy runners are called for crossing and Kenilworth clear their lines. Final attack is snuffed out and Hannam clears long as the whistle goes for no-side and Ken have nicked it 16-17!!
For the purists there was much to criticise about Kenilworth in this fixture; poor execution, concentration lapses at crucial times and unforced errors in possession so there is much to work on. What is not in question is the commitment and sheer heart of this team; however much the odds are stacked against them they have found a way to win and this indefatigability is a priceless commodity. 4 wins out of 5 and back home to meet Barkers' Butts next week.