Kenilworth Colts entertained Stratford Colts on a very cold Friday Haloween evening under lights in front of a good crowd and the match was a great credit to both sides, who used every opportunity to throw the ball around to keep themselves and the crowd warm.
The hosts managed to field 20 players, despite having 12 players not available due to injury, work commitments or half-term holidays. We were delighted to have Nick Prince playing in his first run-out for the Colts at fly-half, with Cameron Fisher slotting into full-back for the first half. We also had Jack Phillips making another rare performance in the front row, with Olly Brown dropping back one row to partners Henry Weston. Matt Gibson captained the side in the absence of Ed Hannam, who was unable to get off work, as was Harry Rowley, Stuart Budd and Dan Goode.
Stratford, playing only their 2nd game of the season came with the right spirit and gave it a right go and although the score seemed to indicate a one-sided game, the visitors certainly had their moments of glory and could and should have added to their single try.
Kenilworth created a good forward platform, managing to secure good quantities of possession and this gave scrum-half, Joe Ballinger, plenty of opportunity to run with the ball and to feed his hungry backs outside him. After a series of pick up and drives from the forwards, this created space for Joe to snipe through a gap and score the first try, converted by Nick Prince. Kenilworth’s second try followed a similar pattern and Joe Ballinger collected his second try, again converted by Nick Prince to take the score to 14-0.
A penalty by Nick Prince took the half-time score to 17-0, which reflected Kenilworth’s superiority, but, if being critical, several opportunities went begging where support in a better position to score was ignored. In tight games, every try-scoring chance has to be taken and we will not realize our full potential, until all players start to be more aware of others around them and identify where the space on the park is.
Several changes were made at half-time to ensure that everyone got onto the park. Will Arnell and Neil Sutherland came on at full-back and scrum-half respectively, Steve Tomlinson and Jason Ford were introduced into the front-row and Tom Clitherow came into the back-row.
Stratford created an overlap on the left and their winger, who showed some real gas to leave all tacklers in his wake and scorched over the line, only to be called back for a foot in touch.
If it was the backs that scored the points in the first-half, it was now the turn of the forwards to show what they could do. Will Arnell fielded a kick out of defence by Stratford and quickly weaved his way down the right wing, linking with Ryan Hutchinson who took the ball deep into the visitor’s 22. Once the ball was quickly recycled for once, a long pass by Neil Sutherland stretched the home defence and an initial sortie by Matt Gibson was held up short of the line, but Conor Barron was on hand to drive over the line, 15 meters left of the posts to give Nick Prince an easy conversion – 24-0.
A good barn-storming run by Steve Tomlinson set up Matt Gibson to drive over through a melee of forwards to take the score to 29-0.
Stratford never gave up and making good use of their scrum-half/left winger, they made several good breaks and eventually their good play was rewarded with an unconverted try – 29-5.
Sean Martin, who had been a colossus all afternoon from the base of the scrum, making many telling breaks carrying the ball over the gain line time and time again for huge yardage gains, finished off another forward move for a final unconverted try taking the final score to 34-5.
Kenilworth maintained their unbeaten season in friendlies and are beginning to look a quality side, even with the un-availabilities for this game. It was good to have Nick Prince at fly-half, who gave an assured performance, especially kicking out of hand which secured some valuable field positions and relieved some pressure, when Stratford were pressing hard. Cameron Fisher and Will Field looked safe and enterprising at full-back, whilst the centre combination of Josh O’Brien and Will Field leaked nothing all evening and made the most of the ball they had in running straight to create opportunities. Joe Ballinger ran well with the ball and Neil Sutherland added a different dimension with some excellent quick passing off both hands. Ryan Hutchinson and Yan Francis both looked sharp on the wings and given more ball, would certainly have finished off any opportunity.
The front row of initially Conor Barron, Matt Gibson and Jack Phillips gave a solid performance and put Stratford under pressure and this was continued when Steve Tomlinson and Jason Ford came on. Olly Brown adapted well to his temporary life in the 2nd row, partnering his school-mate Henry Weston, who continues to perform well in all circumstances. The back row of Max Wiggins, Cory Joy and Tom Clitherow tackled well, managed to secure possession on the floor and provided that vital continuity link when it needed it. Sean Martin was the glue that held the whole team together in both defence and attack.
This was a fine performance and a joy to watch. We need to be aware of the opportunities that present themselves and to take advantage of them – this includes being aware of players in better positions and using them and not going for the individual glory. We also look a much better team, playing a fast tempo game and using width to stretch the opposition and exploiting the gaps that this creates.
Fun was had at the Haloween Party afterwards, with Jack Phillips and Matt Gibson dressed in ghoulish outfits, covered in green slime – better than they look normally!!