Kenilworth started 2018 with a narrow defeat to Malvern but after losing 57-24 to them earlier in the season there were many positives to be taken, writes Sophie Freestone.
Fly-half Alex Selby was successful with a penalty kick from in front of the posts to give his side a 3-0 lead after ten minutes of play.
Malvern looked threatening as possession ebbed and flowed between the two sides but it was Kenilworth who were next on the scoreboard close to the half-hour mark. Scrum-half Gareth Renowden read the play superbly, intercepting on half-way before racing in to touch down under the posts. Selby added the extras to give Kenilworth a ten-point advantage.
Malvern responded within minutes, scoring a try on the left wing after multiple attempts were ruled out. The ball was moved through the hands and winger Luke Milton was on hand to touch down. The conversion from former Gloucester full-back Rob Cook drifted wide of the uprights and the sides went in at the interval with Kenilworth five points up.
The hosts had the perfect start to the second half when centre Rhys Jones finished a move on the right after Kenilworth had showed great hands to take the ball over the line and extend their lead. Selby once again slotted the conversion to take his side into a 17-5 advantage.
However, once again, it did not take Malvern long to respond with Glen Potter burrowing over after a well-worked catch and drive. The missed conversion ensured Kenilworth held a seven-point cushion.
That try signalled the opening of the floodgates for Malvern, with Cook scoring his first points of the match shortly after courtesy of a penalty before Liam Roleston edged his side ahead for the first time. It was another catch and drive that saw the visitors cross the Kenilworth line with Cook adding the extras to nudge the visitors into a 20-17 lead.
Malvern’s three-point lead became a ten-point cushion after Tom Hale successfully chased a kick downfield. The winger touched down in the right-hand corner as the match entered the final quarter to secure the bonus point before Cook slotted the conversion.
Kenilworth’s spirits remained high and Mikkel Andresen powered over by the posts after strong running from young centre Charlie Stevens.
Selby added the conversion to cut the gap to three points.
Kenilworth then retook the lead with a fourth try, securing the bonus point, when Ollie Burman crossed. Selby’s conversion ensured his side went into the final ten minutes with a four-point cushion.
They were unable to hang on, however, with Malvern adding a fifth try just minutes later through Hale.
Cook’s conversion gave them a 34-31 lead before he added a 75th-minute drop goal to seal the victory.
Speaking after the match to GlasshouseTV, Kenilworth’s senior coach Chris Whitehead said: “We knew it needed to be attritional and at times we looked on top.
“We’re very disappointed to get a loss but the positives massively outweigh the negatives.”