KENILWORTH 22 BERKSWELL & BALSALL 23
There had already been two attempts to complete this fixture but the weather had prevented its completion. With the elements finally co-operating this game seemed a timely opportunity for Kenilworth to put their recent losses behind them and restart their season but the outcome proved otherwise.
The omens were not good as Kenilworth fumbled the opening kick-off as two players went for the ball but they recovered well and good decision making by Selby brought play to the Berkswell 22. In what was to become a feature of the day, Kenilworth misfired in the lineout and an early chance went begging. Having regained possession Kenilworth were awarded a penalty for a ruck infringement and opted for touch 5m out but again the lineout went astray. The home side stuck to the task and after a series of infringements elected to take a shot at goal which Hickman banged home and after 10 minutes the Ks led 3-0. Berkswell were not slow to respond as the flanker took a tap penalty inside his own 22 and poor tackling allowed him to make 20m before being stopped. The ball found its way to the left wing and some good interplay put the centre into a gap and the first try of the afternoon was recorded. A good conversion into a stiff breeze saw Berkswell ahead by 3-7.
Lack of effort has never been a problem with this Kenilworth side and back they came with a bang from the restart; in fact they looked to have scored but the ref indicated an attacking scrum. From the set-piece the ball was worked wide to Lowthian who stepped the attempted tackle to score and restore the Kenilworth advantage. But, as so often this season, a score is followed by a response by the opposition and Berkswell again took advantage of weak defence to win a scrum 15m out and, despite the obtuse put-in were allowed to maul the ball almost to the line from where a second try was scored.
In the cyclic way this game was developing, Kenilworth responded to this score well. Berkswell were awarded a scrum in their own 22 but replacement Roberts judged his break well to rob the scrum-half and set Selby on his way before being stopped 10m out. The ball was worked wide where Roberts was again the key player, sending his pass out wide to Hannam who stepped and handed off en route to a landing between the sticks to put Ks back on top. Infuriatingly the pattern repeated itself and Berkswell again got close to the line before being awarded a penalty which the full-back nailed to tie the game at 17. Back come the hosts with a trademark break of the scrum base by Thomson who set Selby on his way before offloading to Hickman who found Beckett with what looked like a scoring pass. Beckett is normally odds on to score from this position but the defence was up to the task and he was bundled into touch. With the half running down Berkswell won another penalty and the teams turned around with the vsitors 17-20 up.
The second half again showed the desire of the home side with a series of forceful attacks but the visitors were up to the task; the final attack in this phase saw Hickman receive the ball in a scoring position but he was bundled into touch 5m out. No let up now as Kenilworth look to put their mark in the opening minutes of the half and a driving maul surged towards the line before Cresswell touched down and with the conversion blown wide in the gusting wind the home side had a slender 22-20 lead. A temporary halt to proceedings was caused by a Berkswell player having cramp – in fact this was to occur at fairly regular intervals during the play and on each occasion play was brought to a halt when perhaps it would have favoured Kenilworth to press on. The frequent stoppages disrupted the flow of the game and there were errors aplenty in the intervening periods where Kenilworth were their own worst enemies allowing errors to creep in and bring promising attacks to a premature end.
In attempting to run a ball out from his 22, Hickman received a stiff arm to the throat which brought a yellow card for the Berkswell winger and Kenilworth would now enjoy a man advantage at a critical phase of the game but again the stoppages intervened.
With 10 minutes to go Berkswell won a penalty which gave the visitors a 22-23 lead and the Glasshouse faithful were again fearing the worst. The Ks pressed to regain the advantage but a combination of poor decision making and handling errors kept the advantage with the visitors. With time running down a driving maul looked to have crossed the Berkswell line but the referee called a knock-on and the game was over.
Disappointing on so many levels, this game was billed as the kick start Kenilworth needed for the second half of the season but a number of factors conspired against them. Notwithstanding the unwarranted stoppages – an unsavoury development – there were still enough opportunities for Kenilworth to win this game but they simply failed to take their opportunities and allowed the opposition too much time to make their decisions. The next fortnight provides no let up and will prove a stern test of character and ultimately define this season.