Renowden hits 100 as impressive Kenilworth secure crucial away victory
Kenilworth scrum half Gaz Renowden crossed twice to reach a century of tries for his Glasshouse Lane side in a superb 39-24 victory away to Crewe & Nantwich on Saturday, writes Sophie Freestone.
With Crewe just one place above Kenilworth in the league this match was always going to be important for both sides in their bid for survival, and the first half proved to be a tight contest.
The hosts took an early lead after just two minutes, having deflected a threatening Kenilworth attack from the kick off. The conversion attempt was wide to leave the hosts 5-0 ahead.
Kenilworth hit back straight away however, after Ed Hannam spotted a gap in the Crewe defence to dive over the whitewash and level the scores. Josh Hickman's conversion attempt was just wide of the mark on a breezy Cheshire afternoon.
With twelve minutes on the clock, Crewe nudged themselves back in front thanks to a fine solo effort from their hooker, who showed his pace to power through the defence and score from just inside the Kenilworth half. The conversion attempt was wide as Crewe restored their five-point lead with twelve minutes played.
In a first half that saw the momentum swing between Kenilworth and Crewe, the visitors levelled the scores once again when Renowden nipped through Crewe's defensive line for his 99th try in blue and yellow.
However, it was Crewe who were next on the scoreboard following a well-worked break up the left touchline. This time, the conversion was successful to secure the full seven points for a 17-10 lead with 33 minutes played.
With the end of the first half fast approaching, Kenilworth took advantage of a line out just inside the Crewe 22, with Jamie Mapletoft cutting an excellent angle to go over from close range. Hickman's conversion rebounded off the uprights and the hosts went in to half time with a slender two-point lead.
While the opening forty was an even contest, the second half saw Kenilworth dominate proceedings. They took the lead for the first time just six minutes into the final forty with a well-worked attack that created space on the left for O'Brien, who raced past the scrambling Crewe defenders to secure a try bonus point. Hickman's successful conversion gave his side a five-point advantage.
Although Crewe showed signs of pressurising the Kenilworth defence, their mistakes proved costly as the visitors took advantage of handling and set piece errors to build a strong platform.
Hickman extended their lead after 62 minutes with a simple but important conversion that gave his side an eight-point lead at 25-17, and put them ahead by more than a single score.
That penalty proved to be pivotal, with Crewe breaching the Kenilworth defence just two minutes later, and the conversion closing the gap to just a single point.
Kenilworth were hungry for victory however, and with a big, powerful Crewe side showing signs of tiring, the visitors used their pace to good effect.
The quick-thinking Renowden showed how important experience can be in big matches. He sniped around a ruck on Crewe's 22 metre line to break through their defence and score a momentous 100th try for his club. Hickman's conversion restored his side's eight-point lead as the match entered the final 15 minutes.
Front rower Will Blakemore then had a moment to remember of his own, making an excellent break that almost saw him power past the defence only for a tap tackle to bring him down. Kenilworth kept the momentum up however, with some slick handling from the back line releasing Hickman on the left to score his side's sixth try of the afternoon. His conversion extended his side's lead to 15 points with just six minutes to play.
The visitors continued to attack in the closing stages with Rhys Jones coming close to adding a seventh, but the winger was just stopped from touching down by desperate, on-the-live defence from Crewe.
That proved to be the final action of the match, with Kenilworth securing a well-deserved 39-24 victory over their relegation rivals.
Although the victory doesn't move Kenilworth off the foot of the table, the bonus point win sees them edge closer to second-from-bottom Crewe, who secured a losing bonus point in the contest.
Kenilworth now sit nine points adrift of Crewe, with their next fixture taking place against Dudley Kingswinford at Glasshouse Lane on Saturday 4th March.
Catch the pics of the game HERE