One thing was certain before a ball was kicked against Crewe & Nantwich – this would be the most physical challenge Kenilworth would face all season, writes Ralph Murray.
But the Ks could take heart from the first meeting at Glasshouse where a convincing home win was the result.
From the first set scrum the physical advantage was clear and Josh Hickman was given the chance to put Kenilworth ahead with a penalty which he duly converted.
This was all the prodding Crewe needed as they settled into their game plan of sending big runners either side of the breakdown.
Eventually the pressure told and the Crewe No.8, running off the base of the scrum, scored their first try and the successful conversion made it 7-3.
The perfect foil for such a threat is to play fast and wide and this is precisely how Kenilworth responded.
But the breakdown was proving a real contest and Kenilworth drew another infringement from Crewe, only for the attempted from Hickman to shave the left-hand upright.
The Crewe No.8 was again at the heart of the next attack and broke a couple of tackles to threaten the line but winger Arthur Haynes made an outstanding run to drag the big man down.
But the respite was short lived as Crewe again threatened the Ks’ line with a set scrum.
A perfectly-timed hit from Gareth Renowden snuffed out the threat before the scrum-half looked to run the ensuing penalty quickly.
He was upended by his opposite number who received a yellow for a dangerous tackle.
Despite the man advantage, Kenilworth were under enormous and sustained pressure and Crewe added to their lead with the winger going over in the corner to make the half-time score 12-3.
The opening salvos of the second period boded well for the visitors as the first series of scrums provided an emphatic advantage.
Kenilworth looked to shift the point of attack and use their outside pace to gain advantage and Crewe infringed to give Hickman another shot at goal – successful this time – and the lead was cut to six.
Perhaps it was the desire to get back on terms but much of Kenilworth’s good work ended with a stray pass or an unforced error.
They were also unlucky with some of the calls as time ran down but their effort was relentless.
Crewe eventually ran out winners by 12-6 but this is a game that Kenilworth could – or perhaps should – have won.
Having weathered the onslaught by their heavier opponents and adjusted their tactics well to counter the threat, they showed that speed of hands and thought could win the day.
However, they fell just short of executing the perfect game plan and returned with only a losing bonus point.