Three tries in 11 second-half minutes gave Kenilworth an enthralling 26-24 victory over Barnsley to book their place in the last four of the Intermediate Cup, writes Sophie Freestone.
Barnsley came to Glasshouse Lane with an impressive record having secured back-to-back promotions since their formation just over three years ago.
They are currently top of the league above Kenilworth and the visitors showed why with a try in the 19th minute, scrum-half Jessica Roberts dancing through the Kenilworth defence to score in the corner.
After some strong defensive work in the opening stages, Kenilworth responded with a converted try from centre Stav Williams just four minutes later. Beth Woodward crashed through the defence to within metres of the line before the ball was recycled and passed to Williams who powered through. Rebecca Lewis added the extras to give Kenilworth a 7-5 advantage.
With the half-hour mark approaching, Barnsley regained the lead when an interception from Katie England allowed the fly-half to touch down. The conversion from Becky Patrick restored Barnsley’s five-point advantage.
They increased their cushion to 12 points with a third try, this time from centre Georgia Staples. Patrick once again added the extras on the stroke of half-time to give her side a 19-7 lead.
After the break, Barnsley attacked the hosts’ defence in the opening minutes but Kenilworth absorbed the pressure and opened the floodgates with a try from Sophie Henry, the winger racing away to touch down in the corner.
The 12-point half-time deficit was soon to become a seven-point lead for the hosts with the addition of two quickfire tries.
The first of these again came from Henry who added the finishing touch after Caroline Spence had collected the ball deep in her 22 and sprinted through the Barnsley defence, only to be stopped just short of the line. Lewis added the extras from the tee to level things up.
The second try came just moments later when Williams turned on the gas down the wing to score her second of the afternoon and give her side the lead for the first time.
The conversion from Lewis made the score 26-19 with just under 20 minutes remaining.
Barnsley were determined not to relinquish their unbeaten record and some ferocious defensive work from the South Yorkshire side prevented Kenilworth from extending their lead as the match neared its conclusion.
That determination came to the fore as Barnsley camped on Kenilworth’s five-metre line in the final minutes.
Their efforts were rewarded, despite Kenilworth’s resolute defence, when Staples crossed for her second of the match.
Substitute Alix Taylor stepped up to take the injury-time conversion but the ball sailed just wide of the uprights to give Kenilworth a superb victory.
Kenilworth will play their semi-final on Sunday March 25, with the opposition still to be confirmed.
Prior to that, they have two league matches at Glasshouse Lane as they take on Olney this weekend and Rugby Lionesses on Sunday March 11.