Kenilworth men bag second away victory in as many weeks
By James Smith
12th Sep 2023 | Rugby
Fresh from last week's season-opening victory away at Stoke, Kenilworth Men's 1st XV overcame both the elements and newly promoted Old Halesonians to win 25-42 and earn five valuable league points.
Head Coach Jon Lowdon and his charges made the short trip north to take on Old Halesonians (Old Hales) in the league for the first time since the 21/22 season.
With temperatures in the mid-30s, both sides agreed to follow the example of the Paris RWC and agreed on drinks breaks on the mid-point of each half.
The early stages were typical of the early season, with both sides feeling each other out and trying to find some rhythm of their own.
With just shy of 10 minutes on the clock, it was the visitors who started best with concerted pressure inside the home half.
Talismanic inside-centre Todd Freemantle made the midfield bust and took play deep into the home 22, where but for a deliberate knock-down Kenilworth would have challenged the home try line. Old Hales down to 14 men.
Soon after the restart, Kenilworth were again in the ascendency with the rolling maul off the lineout creating chaos in the home ranks.
The initial foray was successfully defused by the resolute home defence, but soon after it was Bobby Thompson last up with the ball. Conversion missed, 12 minutes gone, score 0-5.
From the restart, Old Hales would have been looking to settle things, but apparently Kenilworth's Mikkel Andresen had not read the script; the evergreen Dane taking the deep kick and busting through the first tackle before offloading neatly to the ever-present Morgan Fox who took the ball up over halfway, before feeding Kenilworth scrum-half and skipper Alex Caviezel Cox to scamper in under the posts. Conversion added by Mark O'Connor. 14 minutes gone, score 0-12.
Old Hales needed to arrest Kenilworth's stranglehold on the opening minutes of game and, from the restart, held onto possession for a series of phases before their centre cut through the heart of Kenilworth's midfield to score unopposed under the posts.
One for Kenilworth analysis in due course but for now it was game on, and the home side were getting themselves back into the game. Conversion good, score 7-12, 18 minutes on the clock.
Nothing of real note in the ensuing few minutes that led into the first drinks break. Old Hales had the better of the possession and territory and opted for the scrum in front of the Kenilworth posts, only for Kenilworth to win the scrum penalty, closing out the first quarter of the contest.
Kenilworth, with head coach Lowdon's words ringing in their ears, appeared the livelier of the two sides in the early second quarter.
Centre Ed Hannam made a characteristic break through the midfield taking the game up towards the Old Hales 22. Following a couple of phases, the ball was moved out wide to the left wing where Jack Rawlins took the overlap and rounded the cover defence to score out wide. O'Connor added the impressive conversion from out wide. Score 7-19, 25 minutes gone.
Having let Old Hales back into the game earlier, the visitors were now focused on maintaining their dominance and scoring next.
It was not to be and two minutes later, a Kenilworth indiscretion gave Old Hales a shot at three points which was duly taken. Score 10-19, approaching the 30 minutes mark. Whilst Old Hales were not lying down, it was noted that Kenilworth had all but gifted the home side their points through less than accurate play at times.
Five minutes later, Old Hales added three points, the referee adjudging Kenilworth offside at the breakdown. Thirty-six minutes gone, score 13-19.
In what was to be the final play in the first half, Kenilworth absorbed some Old Hales pressure to clear their lines and force a mistake in the home side back three.
From the scrum, the ball was moved out to the right for Todd Freemantle to break again taking play up to a centre field position on the home 22m.
Step up 'Man of the Match' Charlie West to put in the pass of the day, a sublime effort off his left hand, to cut out three defenders and send right wing Max Robinson over unopposed. Conversion missed. Half-time score 13- 24.
The opening 10 minutes of the second half were back and forth, no team particularly on top; however, as time went on the home side were starting to give away sloppy penalties, before Kenilworth centre Ed Hannam was sent to the sin bin for a high tackle.
The local faithful and travelling Kenilworth support were made to wait until the 12th minute of the second half for a further score, with the unflappable O'Connor nailing a penalty kick from centre field, 30 meters out. Score 13-27.
Kenilworth were now starting to work through the gears.
An excellent 50:22 from O'Connor took play deep into the Old Hales red zone. From the lineout, fly-half West kick passed the ball to the left-wing Rawlins who should have scored only for a desperate scramble by the home defence.
Kenilworth continued to exert pressure on the overstretched Old Hales players.
Ultimately the referee lost patience with the home side's discipline, sending 2 Old Hales players to the sin bin.
The visitors opted for the scrum and promptly drove over for their fourth and bonus point try, courtesy of the mercurial Bobby Thompson. Conversion missed, score 13-32 with 25 mins to go.
Having returned from the final water break of the afternoon, the home side enjoyed their best period of the afternoon with a couple of attacks from deep followed by a 50:22 of their own.
From the lineout, Old Hales retained possession through a series of phases, ultimately scoring their first try of the day, to the right of posts, Kenilworth having eventually run out of numbers on that side. Score 18-32 (conversion missed).
Into the last 10 minutes, and Old Hales were still in the ascendency and bagged a second try of the day. Conversion good. Score 25-32.
Determined to have the last laugh, Kenilworth scored a penalty kick through the boot of O'Connor and five minutes before full time Kenilworth scored the final try of the game.
From a lineout on halfway, Charlie West manufactured a break before feeding Jack Rawlins who showed a clean pair of heels to the covering defence from around 35 meters out. Conversion from O'Connor took the score to 23-42, ending a satisfying afternoon for Kenilworth.