Kenilworth Colts travelled away last Saturday to the University of Warwick to take on their Freshers, who had played the might of Warwickshire U20s to warm up for us on the previous Monday. With Dan Rink and Sam Cullen still injured, flu accounting for two others, two further lads away and one no-show, we were still able to travel with 22 players to take on the first year graduates. Matt Gibson came off his flu bed to add experience in the pack and the side was ably led by Ed Hannam.
The pitches at the university were lush and in perfect condition for a fast running game and this suited both sides, who were keen to run the ball at every opportunity. It was the students who struck first, spinning the ball wide with a miss move to their left wing who danced over for a converted try.
With the Kenilworth scrum under a bit of pressure from the larger home pack, scrum-half Joe Ballinger and No 8 Sean Martin did well to get the ball out and several sniping runs by the scrum-half kept the home back-row tied in. A good passage of pick and drives by the Ken forwards, eventually saw Dan Goode dive over for a try converted by Cameron Fisher to level the scores.
The game continued at great pace with the students trying to run the socks of the Ken boys, but we were certainly comfortable with the intense pace of the game, however a rash kick out of defence landed into the hands of the university’s right winger, who jinked his way over, having running past at least half a dozen despairing tackles. The try was converted and took the home side to 14-7.
Kenilworth pressed hard to level the scores, but a missed penalty was their only scoring effort, before quick ball again spun wide gave the students another try, this time unconverted to take the score to 19-7 at half time.
A number of substitutes were made at half-time to allow everyone to have game-time and this galvanized the visitors, but it was the home side that extended their lead following a good sortie by their left winger and after a quick recycle, their clever fly-half put a deft pop pass for their centre to score under the posts. The visitors at 26-7 down, were now staring down the barrel of a potentially large defeat.
The good thing about this squad of lads is that they never give up and despite two crippling injuries to firstly George Harman, who dislocated his shoulder as a result of an innocuous (but successful) tap tackle and then to Lewis Taylor, who had just come on in the 2nd half and who did his trademark polaxing of the receiver from the restart kick-off and broke his collarbone in the resultant tackle, the lads still firmly believed in themselves that they could turn the game around. The scoreline of 26-7 didn’t reflect the state play and came about as a result of some sloppy defense and a rash kick out of our 22.
We suddenly started to produce quicker ball and this allowed our forwards to start battering at their defensive alignment and only silly options taken, when there were people in better positions to score, stopped us from getting straight back into the game. Two certain tries went begging with both forwards and backs being guilty of getting greedy and ignoring support outside them, however we did eventually score through a 2nd Dan Goode try again converted by Cameron Fisher – the score now 26-14, giving us a glimmer of hope.
A try by captain Ed Hannam, who has managed to score a try in every game this season to date, and again converted by Cameron Fisher, brought Kenilworth back to within one score (26-21) of a famous victory.
The game was now all Kenilworth and the decisive score was scored by Sean Martin, who had been colossal all afternoon. The conversion by Cameron Fisher now put the visitors in front for the first time in the game and a penalty by Cameron in the dying moments made the final score 31-26 to Kenilworth.
Having been literally out on a limb at 26-7 down, with two players off to major injuries, the lads ground away and had run the students off their feet. It was a superb game with both sides really throwing the ball about and the lads that came on at half time, stamping their authority on the game. Matt Gibson came on in the front row and this steadied the scrum and ensured that we won more of our line-out ball. Josh O’Brien came on at fly-half to replace Cameron Fisher, who dropped back to full-back and with George Harman of injured, Will Field came on in the centre to help shore up the middle. Ben Bosworth came on for his 2nd game for the club and helped win the line-out battle. Both Yan Francis and George Martin came on the wings and added some pace out wide, with Ryan Hutchinson dropping back into the centre.
Hopefully some of the flu victims and other absentees will be back for Friday night’s home game under lights against Stratford. This was a remarkable turnaround and one that augers well for some tough fixtures coming up. Both coaches and parents were duly proud of what they had witnessed for the 2nd week running. This reporter is beginning to run out of superlatives!!!