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Kenilworth 34 Stratford upon Avon 22

Midlands 1 West

Last Updated: Sep 23, 2013 09:17pm
Kenilworth, Warwick
By Willie Whitesmith
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Kenilworth continued their unbeaten run but this game will be remembered for an error-strewn display and, more worryingly, a spate of injuries – some serious.

A beautiful September afternoon suggested an entertaining game but straight from the kick-off, the first, and most serious, of the afternoon’s injuries saw the Stratford flanker Torres motionless on the floor.  Medical assistance was quickly provided and some 25 minutes later play resumed with the injured player having been taken to hospital by ambulance.

From the restart Kenilworth are quickly into their stride and are enjoying a big advantage in the set scrum; Dickson making a promising break from the base and setting the backs away. A badly disguised offside gives Kendall the chance to open the scoring and the full-back continues his strong run of form to split the uprights. The home side continue to use set piece dominance to set up the attack and another move gathers momentum and a score looks on bit a mix-up in the centres sees the Stratford winger intercept and run in under the posts. Against the run of play it may have been but the score highlighted the need for precision passing and protecting possession. Kenilworth responded by continuing to exert sustained pressure forcing Stratford to give away kickable penalties.

Stratford’s next attack was interrupted by the referee preventing a clear pass. Scrum awarded to Stratford but the sight of Dickson staying down and holding his newly-healed knee caused real concern amongst the Glasshouse Lane faithful. The flanker was forced to leave the field and replaced by Gibson who with his first touch broke from the scrum inside his 22 and spotted a gap in the defence and darted up to midfield. In looking for an offload, his pass was kicked ahead to maintain the momentum but the full-back tidied well and relieved the pressure on the visitors.

But Kenilworth were building a head of steam now and a half-clearance was collected by Hannam on the 22. The centre stepped 2 would-be defenders on his way to a great solo try and Kendall added 2 to put the home side ahead. Kenilworth were enjoying a marked superiority at the scrum but were unable to take full advantage due to the ball not being put in straight. This continued throughout the match and was not penalised once despite the powers that be insisting that this will be given special attention this season.

What looked another serious injury to a Stratford forward was thankfully not, the player leaving the field under his own steam. Ks continue to press and a disturbing pattern was established; a series of good moves is stopped due to handling errors or penalties. Realistically, Kenilworth should have been home and dry before the interval, such was their dominance at set-piece and open play but failure to finish a series of promising moves was costing them dear. The series of injuries and their resultant stoppages did not help matters but the side need to be able to adjust better to a changing game environment.

As pressure on the visitors increased so too did the penalty count; Kendall adding 2 more successful kicks to put his side 19-7 ahead.  Almost from the restart, poor defence by Kenilworth allowed the Stratford winger to run unopposed under the points and the recently established lead was now down to 19-14. This lapse stirred Kenilworth into a series of attacks with the penalty count becoming ridiculously lopsided as a result; one such incident plus some back-chat makes Kendall’s task that much easier. Déjà vu all over again – a penalty right from the restart gives Stratford an easy 3.

Again the error goads the home side into another period of real pressure near the Stratford line but 2 almost identical back moves looks to end in a certain try but on both occasions the chance goes begging due to a lack of precision in the final pass. The ball is eventually cleared by Stratford but only as far as Hickman who finds Kendall with a flat pass that the full back takes well. Seeing the rush defence Kendall chips ahead and catches his opposite number in possession but the resultant scrum is lost be Kenilworth and the last chance of the half goes begging. Ref brings the half to an end a full hour and 10 minutes after it started.

The second half saw both sides trading errors until finally Kenilworth settle down and begin putting some phases together. One such move looked to have given Selby a good score under the posts but a late whistle brings play back for what was deemed a forward pass. Scrum time again providing Kenilworth with a real nudge but apart from the lack of a straight put-in on the opposition ball, they are also guilty of handling errors which nullifies the advantage.

Stratford find touch close to the Kens’ line from a penalty but a good steal sets the busy Gibson away who offloads well to Renowden who finds a great touch on the opposition 22. The ball eventually finds O’Brien who puts the full-back under real pressure and is caught on his own line but somehow Stratford get the ball away but only as far as Middleton. The next phase sees Selby find Renowden who creates a great opening and times the pass to Hannam to perfection and the centre finishes well. This was Kenilworth’s best spell and again are close to scoring when the ball spills in midfield and a kick ahead sees the ball cross the line and the first hand there is the Kenilworth winger with Kendall adding 2 and all looks well at 34-17.

History repeats itself as, almost from the restart, Stratford gather the ball and run in almost untouched to bring the score back to 34-22. But time runs out and 2 hours and 6 minutes after we started the teams are shaking hands. This was a shaky performance from Kenilworth not helped by the frequent and lengthy stoppages. True that with a more rigid enforcement of the scrum feed they may have put their scrum dominance to better use but ultimately it was their inability to close out moves that will haunt them. Commitment and skills are not in question but it is that final 1% - the final killer pass, the clean pick-up, - which is eluding them at the moment. But they have started their campaign in a tough league with 2 ½ out of 3 – momentum is a valuable commodity but the upcoming games will not be so forgiving.

 

 

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