WHITCHURCH 15 KENILWORTH 13
Whitchurch nestles in The Marches, along the historic boundary between lawless Wales and the lush English counties of Mercia . It is a verdant rural area with a long tradition of robust rugby. Like Kenilworth they pride themselves on producing sides made up largely of home grown boys and in recent years we have enjoyed many close and hard fought games . In fairness they were also in large part the most affable and generous of hosts . An excellent lunch was enjoyed by this correspondent but sadly controversy followed . More of this later, writes Peter Jones.
Kenilworth arrived as second in the league after a fine win the previous weekend. Sadly it proved to be an expensive and frustrating day in various ways.
Outstanding fly half convert Josh Hickman sustained an injury in the first 5 minutes which was later diagnosed as a fractured and badly sprained ankle. Stand in kicker Charlie Preston took an early chance with a difficult penalty to give Kenilworth a 3-0 lead. Whitchurch responded with a try to bring the score to 5-3 but failed to add the conversion .
Kenilworth responded with a fine solo try from the ever dependable Mikkel Andresen from 40 meters out. The lack of an experienced kicker meant the conversion was missed leaving Kenilworth with an 8-5 lead. Two yellow cards followed, for the no8 from Whitchurch and then for Kenilworth centre Ed Hannam after a clumsy attempt at clearing out. Had the Referee been Irish of French ancestry his time on the pitch might have been severely curtailed!
Kenilworth fought hard to maintain their lead but lost another player when Rhys Jones reopened a deep cut to his left eye sustained 2 weeks earlier and had to be substituted. The multi-talented Northern Ed Holmes replaced him.
The home side added another unconverted try to push them into a narrow 10-8 lead. Into the final 20 minutes Kenilworth lost second row Sam Went with a knee injury, using the last of their substitutes. He was replaced by Marcus Andrews.
Then an unexpected piece of luck led to another Kenilworth try . A sliced kick from Whitchurch landed in Joe Jepps' hands and he gratefully accepted the gift to score under the posts . Sadly the lack of a kicker cost us again with the kick being missed. So a narrow 13-10 lead.
The last 15 minutes were almost a repeat of the Wales v Australia RWC game, with Kenilworth showing heroism in defence to repel numerous Whitchurch assaults. Eventually the pressure told and the home side scored a try to sneak a 15-13 win.
In the last 5 minutes a simmering tension, which had built up during the game, broke out into a mass brawl . Kenilworth hooker Matt Gibson saw red, literally, and figuratively and will spend some time resting on his laurels.
So at least 3 Kenilworth players out for the next few weeks and all in a disappointing day.