Kenilworth met their toughest challenge of the season with typical courage and no little skill but were denied a hard-fought draw by a last-second score, writes Ralph Murray.
Kenilworth competed fiercely in the early exchanges. Josh Hickman sent Arthur Haynes into clear air and he looked odds-on to score but, seeing Simon Tyler inside, he chose that option and the centre was held two metres out. Hereford ran the ball from deep and the wing showed blistering speed to outrun the defence and a promising series of phases from Ks ended with the visitors scoring the first points of the afternoon. A fine conversion made the early lead 7-0.
Kenilworth went straight back on the attack and Hereford were penalised for repeated offside, allowing Josh Hickman to get the Ks account started with 20 minutes gone.
Ks had a slight edge at the set scrum and a break took them to within five metres of the Hereford line. Scrum-half Alex Selby dummied and half the Hereford defence bought it as the ball found Simon Tyler at second receiver. The centre had a clear overlap but stepped his marker to score. A fine conversion from Hickman put the hosts ahead for the first time.
Outstanding defence was the feature of the remainder of the half but as the interval fast approached Hereford launched another attack from the Kenilworth 22. The decoy runner looked between the ball carrier and the defender but there was no whistle and Hereford ran off him to score in the corner for a 14-10 interval lead.
The set-piece, which had served them so well in the first period, went awry on the resumption and Hereford put together multiple phases in the red zone which led to their third try. Another good conversion extended the lead to 11 points.
A professional foul saw Hereford reduced to 14 and Kenilworth’s decision to opt for the catch and drive paid dividends as they mauled the ball over to bring it back to 21-15.
Ks continued to press and an attempted clearance found winger Joe Jepps who made 20 metres before feeding Tyler. The centre found Ed Hannam on his left shoulder and he took the first hit before stepping through the next tackle five metres out. As he fell he stretched and the momentum took him over the line to put Kenilworth to within a point at 21-20.
Hereford extended their lead with a penalty, but were again reduced to 14 and Ks wheeled a set scrum five metres out to allow Bobby Thompson to crash over. Hickman added the two as Kenilworth took a 27-24 lead.
As play entered five minutes of added time the Hereford full-back levelled the scores with a penalty.
Kenilworth pressed for the killer blow and as they edged ever closer, Hereford were pinged on their 22. In the absence of the injured Hickman, Tyler took over the kicking duties but pushed his attempt wide left.
Hereford kicked off and won a ruck in midfield before Kenilworth were penalised. The visitors played it quickly and their winger took advantage of space on the right wing to dash over at the death.