WARWICKSHIRE CUP SEMI FINAL
Kenilworth 34 Berkswell & Balsall 19
A glorious afternoon at Old Leamingtonians greeted the two sides as they prepared to do battle for the right to contest the Warwickshire Cup final, writes Ralph Murray.
The game started at a fast pace as Kenilworth took the opening kick-off and ran through 7 quick phases before turning the ball over and Berkswell & Balsall returned the favour with a series of moves of their own. Within 5m of the Ken line they run a move wide right to stretch the defence and score the opening try of the afternoon. The Ks response was more measured as they forced infringements at the breakdown and eventually secured an attacking lineout which Tom Lane, playing in the back row, controlled the catch and drive ( in what was to become a feature of the Kenilworth afternoon). Prop Ross Lowthian played the pivot role and held well before finding winger Joe Jepps who put Josh Hickman over to level the score. No conversion.
Tom Lane again bossed the lineout to set up another driving maul and Kenilworth made fully 15m before Ross Lowthian again provided the outlet receiver; the prop charged forward and showed great pace and, with only the full-back to beat, unselfishly found centre Rhys Jones for a spectacular score. The first successful conversion of the afternoon saw Kenilworth take a 12-5 lead and something of a template had been established for the way the team was to approach the afternoon - "if it ain't broke don't fix it!" and that's precisely what Kenilworth did on their next attack; a driving maul was set up close to the B&B line with Ross Lowthian, again the playmaker, took the ball and found winger Joe Yeomanson who made no mistake to score a third try, not converted. There was still time for another score before the interval and the usual suspects were involved. Ross Lowthian, who played one of the most complete games seen for some time, again played distributor to find No8 James Wadey on the charge. He in turn found Joe Jepps, who with a speedy offload set speedster Joe Yeomanson off with 30m still to go. The winger outran the B&B defence to record the fourth try of the first half and it appeared that the Glasshouse Lane club have their opposition's number as half time arrived and a 24-5 score-line.
The start of the second half brought a check to any ideas of a rout; B&B, now with the wind, started the period with real intent and worked the ball to within 10m of the Kenilworth line. Using a page from the Ks play-book, the maul was set up and B&B drove over and with a successful conversion it's a 12-point game, and a few worried Kenilworth supporters. More bad news for Ken as replacement scrum half Renowden received a yellow card and the game entered a critical phase as B&B mount a concerted surge and threatened the Kenilworth line. Kenilworth cleared their lines but a call for a late tackle on the B&B full-back provided a chance to launch their next attack but the long kick was fielded by the industrious Joe Yeomanson who saw the open field ahead of him and took the play inside the B&B red zone. Ken won a scrum 10m out and No8 James Wadey charged off the base but was held up; Alex Selby recycled the ball quickly and the ball was out to Josh Hickman who scored in the corner, not converted. With time running down Kenilworth were now still pressing and another driving maul took them close to the line before an interchange between Gaz Renowden and James Wadey put the game beyond reach with the 6th try of the afternoon for Kenilworth and a 34-12 score-line.
So Kenilworth achieved an apparently emphatic win but that does not tell the whole story. Berkswell & Balsall were full of running and took the game to Kenilworth at every opportunity, scoring a late converted try, but ultimately Kenilworth had the better game plan and they stuck to it; an imperious performance by Tom Laney in the line-out, some scintillating play by the back division but the plaudits are mostly reserved for Ross Lowthian who played with vision, speed of thought and real commitment for an outstanding individual performance.
The other semi final was won by Nuneaton (over Sutton Coldfield) and the final is set for Sunday 15th March.