Whitchurch 24 Kenilworth 18
Kenilworth travelled to Edgeley Park in Whitchurch hoping to arrest a recent run of defeats, including the frustrating loss last week to neighbours Berkswell & Balsall. A fantastic pitch and negligible wind offered perfect conditions for two teams who had provided an absorbing contest earlier in the season where K's took the points in an open, fast paced game, writes Glyn Owen.
An early concession of a penalty for not releasing in the tackle was to become a recurrent theme with the referee being particularly sharp with this aspect of the laws and Kenilworth perhaps being slower to adapt than Whitchurch. From the penalty influential outside half Nicholas found a good touch and Kenilworth were powerless to stop a well constructed rolling maul going over, the subsequent conversion drifting wide.
Kenilworth responded well and strong running in the forwards and a thumping tackle by fly half Glover on a Whitchurch back rower kept play in the host's half from where the returning Kendall was successful with two well - struck penalties which edged K's into the lead, 6-5.
The game now began to open up. Horton, Whitcurch's lively full back always threatened with ball in hand and only desperate defence kept him out after one thrilling counter attack. In reply, James Wadey covering sensibly at the back, fielded the ball and set off on a coruscating run to set Hannam free on the right but the latter's pass failed to find Hickman on the wing. The referee finally lost patience with Kenilworth's interpretation of the tackle area and second row Naylor found himself in the bin. As the game neared half time and after some typically resolute defence another less than accurate exit play found Whitchurch's counter attackers and after the ball had gone through several pairs of hands Horton was again in the thick of things to claim the score. This time Nicholas was successful with the conversion and had the last say of the half when he kicked a penalty after K's backs were adjudged offside to head into the break with Whitchurch leading 15-6.
The second half started as inauspiciously for K's as the first had ended. The kick off was knocked on and after a number of phases the inevitable penalty ensued for not releasing in the tackle despite exhortations from coach Gibson at half time to be cannier in this department. Nicholas converted and Whitchurch were seemingly comfortable with a twelve point lead. The next twenty minutes, however belonged to Kenilworth. Wings Beckett and Hickman found space and after another breakaway a deliberate knock on by the Whitchurch second row found him in the bin and K's in a promising attacking position. After a series of scrums, a facet of play in which Kenilworth had an edge, Selby sniped for the line and crossed for a try when the referee might have been inclined to impose the penalty try sanction. An intervention by the Whitchurch supporters reminded the referee to move the resultant conversion five metres towards the touchline and they responded with typical good humour when Hickman's kick sailed between the posts to leave the score at 18-13. Kenilworth now sensed that victory was possible but could still not get it right at the breakdown and two further penalties from Nicholas seemed to have sealed the game for Whitchurch at 24-13. Nonetheless, with ball in hand K's continued to play with drive and conviction and having reached Whitchurch's line a charge down by the tireless Nancarrow took him over the line for an unconverted try and a six point gap. Whitchurch tried to close the last 5 minutes down and on the whistle the referee awarded a penalty to K's deep in their own 22. To the horror of some of K's officials and supporters (and the delight of others) captain Cresswell opted to chase 7 points and the victory. A number of forward charges took them out of the 22 and for a moment it looked as though Beckett might be put through a gap but the move fizzled out just short of halfway and the referee whistled to end the match. A bonus point took Kenilworth beyond 50 points for the season.
Honours even then over the season for K's and Whitchurch and refreshing to see two teams playing committed and free flowing rugby. Whitchurch, as ever, were good humoured and hospitable hosts and barring disaster we look forward to renewing rivalries next season. Next week sees Kenilworth visit runaway league leaders Lichfield for what should be an interesting encounter.