Kenilworth 25 Leek 6
Mids 1 west, 5th Sept 2015
Kenilworth got the 2015/16 campaign underway with a strong performance against a committed Leek team, writes Ralph Murray.
With players fresh from the summer break the opening minutes of the game were frantic but also error-filled. The hosts were enjoying the better possession but also taking the lion's share of the penalty count; this would become a trend for the rest of the afternoon.
The good early work by Kenilworth looked to have brought its first reward when winger Joe Yeomanson appeared to have grounded the ball in the corner but was adjudged to have made touch (by the KRFC touch judge!) prior to the act of scoring. This, however, proved only a temporary stay of execution as the other winger Joe Jepps collected the ball in midfield and took the ball up strongly before being hauled down 5 metres short. Kenilworth recycled well and it was Jepps in the right place to record the first try of the season and Josh Hickman added 2 to give the home side a 7-0 lead.
Worryingly, half-back Alex Selby had received a blow to the head early and was correctly replaced but this forced an early reshuffle of the back division with Charlie Preston moving from centre to fly-half and Ed Holmes appearing in the centre.
Leek responded with some strong running but the Kenilworth defence was resolute and repelled all incursions. Kenilworth had now established the set-scrum as a real weapon now and should have taken more from this phase but Leek managed to scramble one such put-in away and looked threatening. Leek were successful with a penalty. As a ruck formed, outstanding work from centre Ed Hannam stole possession and looked to move the ball wide by handing off no fewer than 3 successive tackle attempts before finding Joe Yeomanson. The winger kicked out on the full to bring the first half to a close at 7-3 to the home side.
The second half began with the penalty trend continuing; promising work by Kenilworth halted by the referee's whistle. One can argue the validity of the calls ad infinitum but the only lesson here is that sides have to understand what the man in the middle is pinging and adjust their game accordingly – and quickly!
Despite the discipline issues, Kenilworth exhibited real desire to keep the scoreboard active and an attack from Leek was stopped and Ed Hannam was to the fore again; this time running the ball out from his 22 and making 40 yds before kicking out on the full. But Kenilworth won back possession and Joe Jepps chipped the defender, gathered his own kick and was brought down short of the line. The Kenilworth support arrived in a hurry and No8 and Captain James Wadey eventually touched down for the second try of the afternoon and 12-3.
With the game entering the final half-hour, Leek had a further successful penalty for 12-6 and were pressing mightily for their first try. There was a sustained series of 12 phases, all within 5m of the Ken line, and all were repelled by some outstanding defence. Eventually the pressure produced a penalty for Leek in the corner but the attempted tap was well read by the evergreen prop Nick Collett who bundled the carrier into touch to relieve the pressure. As Ken countered they make good ground before finally winning a penalty of their own for a ruck infringement; Hickman added the 3 to make the score 15-6.
More pressure from Kenilworth at scrum time close to the Leek line saw their No8 rush his pass and put the full-back under pressure. Mikkel Andreson, who had already covered well all game, caught him in possession to win a scrum 5 from which James Wadey added his second of the afternoon. An "undecided" conversion meant the score was now 20-6.
Leek had an air of urgency now and again produced a sustained period of pressure close to the Ken line and eventually they stretch the Ken defence to produce a 3 on 2 which looked to produce a certain score but the final pass drifted forward and the pressure was eased. Kenilworth's urgency was now to achieve a bonus point and scrum half Gaz Renowden enjoyed a purple patch at this stage of the game, making some telling runs. One such attack was set up by Mikkel Andreson who set the 9 down the left flank to make 20m before chipping the last defender. 2 Leek players converged on the loose ball but it's a case of too many cooks. Gaz Renowden fell on the ball to secure the bonus point and Josh Hickman failed to added the extras to make the final score 25-6.
Not a perfect display – the discipline saw to that – but a very promising one to start a season that will test the Kens to the limit. There was good work by second row Sam Went making his debut.
Next week, away at Silhillians.
Photos are available at LEEK PHOTOS