Kenilworth returned to winning ways on Saturday with a tenacious victory over local rivals Earlsdon, achieved despite going down to 13 players in the first half, writes Sophie Freestone.
The cold, wet conditions meant it was never going to be an afternoon for free-flowing, running rugby and it was Earlsdon who scored the first points of a physical encounter.
Having pressurised the Kenilworth five-metre line as the opening quarter came to a close, the hosts crossed the line through Lawrence Gittins after a scrum to open up a five-point lead.
Kenilworth responded well, however, with winger Ed Hannam burrowing his way over from close range for a try converted by Simon Tyler.
With the half-hour mark approaching, Earlsdon were once again inside the Kenilworth 22 and the hosts lost prop Dan Roberts to the sin-bin for collapsing a maul.
The visitors soon made the most of their one-man advantage with number eight Martin Wood crashing over for his side’s second try and a 10-7 lead.
Further sustained pressure inside the Kenilworth 22 then resulted in the hosts going down to 13 players with full-back Ollie Sharples shown a yellow card for a try-saving deliberate knock-on just five metres from the Kenilworth line.
Despite having two more players on the pitch, Earlsdon were unable to turn their pressure into points with Kenilworth’s defence holding firm to keep the deficit to three points at the break.
Having found themselves a try down early in the first half, Kenilworth wasted no time in regaining the lead in the second 40.
A trademark snipe from Gareth Renowden saw the scrum-half go over by the posts following a tap-and-go penalty.
Tyler was once again on target with the conversion to put his side 14-10 up.
Earlsdon then cut the gap to a single point with a penalty from in front of the posts before Tyler responded with three points from his left boot to restore his side’s four-point lead. The visitors then found themselves down to 14 men when a second row was sin-binned.
A second penalty for Tyler as the final quarter approached made the score 20-13 before Charlie Stevens put the result beyond doubt with a try under the posts after 75 minutes.
The young centre charged down an Earlsdon clearance kick and his quick reactions saw him race clear in the 22 to cross the whitewash. Tyler again added the extras.
With victory now secured Kenilworth were keen to earn the all-important bonus point and that is exactly what they did with prop Dan Minks crossing on the right with just a minute to go.
Tyler dragged his conversion just to the left of the uprights before the referee called time.
Kenilworth, who now sit in third place in the league behind table-toppers Droitwich and second-placed Malvern, are back in action tomorrow when they travel to Evesham for their final away trip of 2017.