Kenilworth Colts welcomed Nuneaton Colts to a very soggy Cow Patch in the Preliminary Round of the Warwickshire Colts Cup, a repeat of last year’s final.
It was very much touch and go whether the match was to go ahead, following all the sleet, rain and snow that the ground has had to absorb over the last two weeks. With the 1st XV pitch deemed unplayable, the game took place at the Cow Patch on the only pitch available and the boggy conditions very much played into the hands of the large visitor’s pack.
Half-term robbed the home side of several players off skiing and injury accounted for Sean Martin’s absence, but Kenilworth were still able to field what was considered a strong side to take on Nuneaton, whom they had beaten in a friendly earlier on in the season.
The two teams trained together on an adjoining pitch to save the match pitch as much as possible and a silly expletive by a Kenilworth player earned himself a ticking off by the referee before the starting whistle had been blown. The referee certainly wasn’t amused by this stupid act of disrespect and it felt like he certainly remembered this during the match.
Once the match started for real, there was very little quarter given by either side and the close exchanges were furiously contested. Kenilworth’s pack were put under a very serious examination in the tight and suddenly a yellow card appeared for dissent against our mildest-mannered of props, Conor Barron. Down to 14 men, the home side fought hard to keep Nuneaton from scoring and sterling defence from Josh O’Brien in the centre, who didn’t miss a tackle in the whole game, as the visitors launched attack after attack into the 10-12 channel with very little success. The back row of Sam Cullen, Dan Goode and Max Wiggins put in a huge amount of extra tackling and scrambling for the ball in the loose and did their best to limit opportunities for the visitors.
There were, however, many silly penalties given away which meant that Kenilworth were forever chasing the game instead of stamping their authority on the game and making Nuneaton answer some questions. The first score of the game was one of these needless penalties, which was converted taking the score to 0-3.
Shortly afterwards from a scrum in the home 22, a ball taken against the head, whilst the home pack were one short, gave Nuneaton an excellent attacking position and this resulted in a converted try under the posts, which took the score to 0-10.
A great take and drive by Conor Barron into the Nuneaton 22, taken on by Dan Rink and Ed Hannam, resulted in a penalty 5 yards from the visitors line. Nick Prince took a quick tap and had the ball knocked out of his hands as the line beckoned – a missed opportunity.
Nuneaton’s pack were well on top at half-time, with the score at 0-10 and the necessary changes were made moving Rob Gardner over from hooker to prop and bringing on Matt Gibson to hooker. This certainly had the desired effect of stabilising the scrum.
Kenilworth were soon to lose another front-row forward for 10 minutes, as Rob Gardner clumsily took out one of the opposition jumpers at a line-out. Whilst not malicious, it was technically correct and Kenilworth had to suffer one man short again. Jason Ford again came on for a carded front-row forward and acquitted himself well.
Kenilworth continued to make errors with dropped passes or aimless kicking away of possession when the forwards had won the ball and this never really allowed a period of concerted pressure to be put on Nuneaton.
Both sides missed penalty attempts on a day when a tricky wind and a greasy surface made penalty kicks difficult. With the score at 0-10,any penalty would have put Kenilworth back in the game, but it was not to be.
Defence was definitely the order of the day and James Ray, Dan Rink and Rob Gardner complimented the efforts of the back row, putting in extra hits all over the park.
With the score locked on 0-10, neither side could cleanly open up the other one sufficiently to gain a try-scoring opportunity. James Ray had to be replaced after suffering a calf injury and Jack Phillips came back on late in the second half.
The game finished frustratingly for Kenilworth, because they hadn’t been allowed to play their usual game and this is great credit to Nuneaton, who played the conditions perfectly. Certainly the game didn’t flow, with a constant stream of penalties from the referee’s whistle and this make the game very stop-start. Two yellow cards in the front row meant that Kenilworth played 20 minutes with 14 men and against the large pack from Nuneaton, this was always going to be a tough challenge.
Good luck to Nuneaton in their quest to keep the Warwickshire Cup north of Coventry. Kenilworth return back to the friendly season, possibly ruing some stupid pre-match comments!!