Crewe & Nantwich 12 Kenilworth 6
One thing was certain before a ball was kicked in this fixture; this would be the most physical challenge that Kenilworth would face this season. But the Ks could take heart from the first meeting at Glasshouse where a convincing home win was the result, writes Ralph Murray.
From the first set scrum the physical advantage was clear – but misdirected; Josh Hickman converting the resulting penalty to give the visitors an early 3-point lead. This was all the prodding Crewe needed as they settled into their game plan of sending their big runners either side of the breakdown but the initial forays were repelled. Eventually the pressure told and the Crewe No.8, running off the base of the scrum, scored their first try of the afternoon and the successful conversion made it 7-3.
The perfect foil against such a threat is to play fast and wide and this is precisely how Kenilworth responded. Quick ball from Gareth Renowden so often the catalyst and on one occasion he found the excellent Ross Lowthian at second receiver who straightened before finding Ed Hannam and JoeYeomanson. 10m out and with Joe Jepps outside the winger took the ball close to touch and cut inside but was held up short. The breakdown was a real contest and Kenilworth drew another infringement from Crewe but the attempted penalty from Josh Hickman shaved the left-hand upright. The Crewe 8 was again at the heart of the next attack and broke a couple of tackles to threaten the line but winger Arthur Haynes made an outstanding run from his wing to drag the big man down. But the respite was short lived as Crewe again threatened the K's line with a set scrum, but a perfectly timed hit from Gareth Renowden snuffed out the threat and the scrum half looked to run the ensuing penalty quickly. He was upended by his opposite number who received a yellow for a dangerous tackle; as he departed he stopped to shake the Kenilworth half-back's hand in a nice sporting gesture.
Despite the man advantage, Kenilworth were under enormous and sustained pressure and Crewe remarkably added to their lead in this period with the winger going over in the corner to make the half-time score 12-3.
The opening salvos of the second period boded well for the visitors as the first series of set scrums provided an emphatic advantage for the Ks. Kenilworth looked to shift the point of attack and use their outside pace to gain advantage and Crewe infringed to give Josh Hickman another shot at goal; successful this time and the lead was cut to 6. Back came the visitors and made rapid progress toward the line before a deliberate knock-on disrupted the move; the expected penalty was not forthcoming and K's continued to press. Perhaps it was the desire to get back on terms but much of Kenilworth's good work ended with a stray pass or an unforced error. They were also unlucky with some of the calls as time ran down but their effort was relentless.
Crewe eventually ran out winners by 12-6 but this is a game that Kenilworth could (or should ) have won. Having weathered the onslaught by their heavier opponents and adjusted their tactics well to counter the threat, they showed that speed of hands and thought could win the day but fell just short of executing the perfect game plan.