Kenilworth cling on to third place after securing derby bragging rights
Victory at Moorfields in the final match of the campaign cemented Kenilworth's top-three finish, writes Sophie Freestone.
Having secured a 22-0 victory against Leamington on the opening day of the season, it was Kenilworth who put themselves on the scoreboard first in the reverse fixture.
The visitors set up a rolling maul inside the Leamington 22 and Chris Whitehead went over in the corner to open his side’s account.
The two sides then exchanged penalties, with Leamington cutting the gap to two points through Jim Robertson before Kenilworth restored their five-point advantage thanks to three points from the boot of Simon Tyler.
Following a period of disjointed play, Kenilworth extended their lead through Gareth Renowden.
The scrum-half picked the ball up from the base of a ruck and dived over to score against his former club.
Tyler’s conversion added the extras to extend his side’s lead to 15-3 midway through the opening 40.
Leamington responded well, however, and after a series of successful pick and gos, the ball made its way to replacement Luca Illing who crossed in the left corner.
The missed conversion meant Kenilworth held a 15-8 lead with just over half an hour gone.
That lead was extended when Tyler went over for his side’s third of the match in the 36th minute.
Fly-half Alex Selby was on target with the conversion to give his side a 22-8 lead at the break.
Kenilworth started the second half brightly, putting together some strong attacking play to put pressure on the hosts’ defence. They could not turn that pressure into points, however, and it was Leamington who scored the first points of the half 18 minutes in to get themselves back into the match.
The hosts worked their way into the visitors’ 22 and Illing spotted a gaping hole in the Kenilworth defence to score.
The successful conversion from Robertson took Leamington to within seven points of the visitors as the match entered the final quarter.
A converted try seven minutes later from the returning Ed Hannam restored Kenilworth’s 15-point cushion and although Leamington added a third try of their own courtesy of prop Danny Phillips with four minutes remaining, it was too little, too late.
Speaking after the match, Whitehead said: “I’m am so pleased for the whole squad with today’s result.
“Leamington made it difficult for us but we stuck to our plan and got the result we deserved.
“More importantly, we achieved our target from January of finishing in third place which was a big aim for us and we can’t wait for next season.”
Leamington for their part finished the campaign one place higher than the previous season and will take some comfort from the fact that they doubled their bonus point tally to 16, emphasising how slim the margins have been between defeat and victory in a number of matches this year.