Kenilworth 26 Crewe & Nantwich 17: Nerveless Hickman ensures Ks always keep their nose in front

Joe Jepps, seen here en route to a try for Kenilworth, was also yellow-carded in an eventful first half for the winger.

Joe Jepps, seen here en route to a try for Kenilworth, was also yellow-carded in an eventful first half for the winger.

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A delayed kick-off due to the late arrival of the visitors allowed the Molly Olly charity lunch to finish and the large crowd to assemble to watch Kenilworth record their seventh league win out of eight, writes Ralph Murray.

With the teams sizing each other up, the game started quietly with only an early penalty miss from Crewe proving the closest either side came to getting on the board.

Gradually Kenilworth began to establish control and a superb lineout take by the dependable Tom Lane in the 17th minute saw the ball spread across the backs for back-rower Pete Nancarrow to score close to the posts.

The score was converted by Josh Hickman and Kenilworth had established an early and important 7-0 advantage.

Ks were in full flow and another superb run from winger Joe Jepps took the ball close to the C&N line, allowing second-row James Wadey to score a second try, again converted by Hickman.

Soon after, Jepps was yellow-carded for not releasing at a tackle and Ks were down to 14 for the remainder of the half.

Kenilworth suffered a further setback when centre Simon Tyler had to leave the field with an ankle injury, soon followed by his centre partner Ed Hannam (shoulder).

The resultant changes saw Alex Selby come on at scrum-half with Gareth Renowden moving to centre.

Bobby Thompson also moved into the centre, with Will Carlos replacing him at number eight.

However, the changes did not disrupt the hosts and, after a number of tryscoring chances were created and Crewe were reduced to 14, Hickman added a penalty to stretch the advantage to 17 points at the interval.

With the wind at their backs on the resumption, the visitors cut the deficit with a converted try.

The reshaped Kenilworth team responded well and a superb Hickman penalty extended the lead to 20-7 with around 20 minutes remaining.

There was another period of stalemate before a quickly taken penalty from the visitors in the 72nd minute resulted in a try which went unconverted.

Kenilworth were becoming rattled by a few of the refereeing decisions and from one disputed penalty call Crewe broke to score another try, again unconverted, to put the game in the balance at 20-17 going into time added on.

There was a large sigh of relief as Kenilworth were awarded a penalty 30 metres out. Hickman calmed a few nerves with a fine pressure kick, leaving the visitors needing a try to bring them victory.

They twice went close in the dying minutes before a penalty allowed Ks to clear the danger.

Kenilworth were now trying to kill the game and a mistake from the Crewe number nine resulted in a lineout to the home side from which a penalty was awarded.

Hickman again made no mistake to seal a hard-fought victory.