Kenilworth continued to show signs of improvement at the weekend but Sutton Coldfield’s powerful pack were just too strong at Glasshouse Lane, writes Sophie Freestone.
Sutton were the first to get themselves on the scoreboard with a penalty after just three minutes when the hosts were penalised for not releasing.
Kenilworth’s responded almost immediately, however, with Josh Hickman scoring his first penalty on what was a perfect afternoon from the tee for the full-back.
The visitors regained the lead with 15 minutes on the clock when an impressive driving maul took them over the Kenilworth line. The successful conversion gave Sutton a seven-point cushion.
A second penalty from Hickman closed the gap to four points just three minutes before his third after 23 minutes cut Sutton’s advantage to just a single point.
With the half-hour mark approaching, Sutton utilised their powerful driving maul once more to take them up to the Kenilworth five-metre line, allowing a back to jink over the line and score.
The successful conversion made it 17-9 to the visitors with just over ten minutes of the half remaining.
Two further penalties in quick succession from Hickman reduced the deficit with half-time looming but Sutton Coldfield were determined to have the final say, scoring two tries in quick succession.
The first of these scores saw the ball make its way down the line before the winger crept in at the left-hand corner.
The next try was scored just minutes later to wrap up the bonus point on the stroke of half-time and make it 27-15 at the break.
The second half began in much the same way as the first half concluded, with Sutton once again crossing the whitewash.
A superb piece of individual skill, with a chip over the Kenilworth defence, took the visitors deep into the hosts’ 22 for a simple run in on the left.
Sutton now had a commanding 17-point lead but Hickman’s superb form with the boot continued with his sixth penalty of the match narrowing the deficit with just under half an hour to play.
The last of Sutton’s six tries came as the final quarter approached, this time from a five-metre lineout. The ball was retained and made its way to the full-back who dived over unopposed.
The conversion gave his side a 39-18 lead and that is how it remained until the final whistle.
n Kenilworth Ladies made sure 2017 got off to a perfect start with a well-deserved 39-12 victory over Cannock.
The first meeting of these sides this season saw Kenilworth secure a narrow 28-26 victory back in October but it was to be a much more dominant performance at Glasshouse Lane.
Winger Phoebe May Howles opened the scoring for the hosts in the fifth minute after superb counter-attack, racing on to a clearance kick and rounding the visitors’ defence to touch down.
Kenilworth extended their lead courtesy of centre Felicity Baldwin after a miss-pass from fly-half Vicky Stokes.
Stokes was on target with the conversion to give her side a 12-0 lead mid-way through the half.
The hosts’ third try of the afternoon came from full-back Harrie Clemens who crossed on the left after the forwards gained territory.
Baldwin then doubled her tally to give the hosts a 22-0 lead.
Cannock responded with their first try of the match after Kenilworth conceded a penalty for offside. Their scrum-half took a quick tap and sniped through the scrambling Kenilworth defence to score under the posts.
The conversion made it 22-7 but Kenilworth quickly restored their 22-point cushion with a converted try of their own from second-rower Ada Ajoku.
With a large points deficit to overhaul, Cannock came out firing in the second half and applied sustained pressure on the Kenilworth defence. However, the hosts stood firm and were the first to trouble the scoreboard with Clemens evading multiple defenders to score on the right-hand side.
Hooker Lexi MacKee and substitute flanker Alex Clay both went close to crossing the whitewash before winger Patricia McMahon scored Kenilworth’s final try of the afternoon.
Cannock made did it onto the scoreboard one last time after Kenilworth conceded back-to-back penalties for offside and a high tackle.
However, it was a mere consolation as Kenilworth began 2017 where 2016 left off to cement their place at the top of the league, six points clear of second-placed Coalville.