Midland League 3
Kesteven faced Southwell in a vital match to settle who would join Melton Mowbray in the promotion race.
There was an awkward crosswind blowing across Woodnook as Kesteven kicked off. Southwell failed to clear and the home team spent the opening minutes keeping Southwell pegged back.
Despite having the better of territory and possession, Kesteven were unable to break through a stubborn defence. Whittaker had two penalty attempts midway through the half. The first drifted to the right of the posts and the second faded to the left.
Taylor showed some nice touches but neither he nor Whittaker were able to get clear with the few opportunities that came their way. Bloodworth won some good line-out ball but he was up against a tall, wily opponent.
After the half time break, Southwell put the restart straight into touch when led to a Kesteven scrum on halfway. Southwell turned the ball over and set the pattern.
The Southwell pack raised their game a couple of notches and forced the home team back into their own half. Martyn Parker was able to use the wind well to kick for position, but Southwell did not concede.
Ben Addlesee went off for minor repairs and Southwell took advantage to spoil Kesteven possession and take play into the 22. They were able to work the ball out right for the opening score after 15 minutes of the half.
Kesteven’s response was good as James Cowley took control of the restart and dashed for the line. He has tackled short of his target and Southwell soaked up the pressure.
The visitors were able to break out and a couple of minutes later they were again camped on the home line. A couple of phases of play opened up the Ks defence and Southwell scored their second try. A successful conversion opened up a 12-point gap.
Kesteven still had plenty of time to rescue the match and Cowley showed great handling skills to pluck the ball out of the air, but again he was tackled into touch.
Ks spent much of the final 20 minutes in the Southwell half but the strength of the visiting pack was able to turn ball over.
The visitors had one final surge for the home line and added a third try in the corner in the final minute.
The conversion attempt failed and the referee brought proceedings to an end, leaving Southwell rueing the missed bonus point which would almost certainly have secured promotion.
Gavin Purvis was chosen as man of the match by Mayor Ian Selby who was the club’s guest for the day.
Kesteven: Whittaker, Jepson, Aspinall, Goodrich, Taylor, Parker, Addlesee, Odams, Sheardown, Purvis, Pert, Cowley, Webster, Woolerton, Bloodworth. Reps: Payne, Cartwright, Cole.
Kesteven met Sleaford on one of Woodnook’s wettest and windiest days and even faced horizontal sleet during the game.
Sleaford are one of the strongest sides in the region, so a Kesteven team depleted by injury and holiday commitments was always going to face a stern test.
The opening moments of the match provided evidence that the teams were well matched as possession was fairly evenly shared in the opening exchanges. Both teams had opportunities to score but it was Ks who did so first. Cox pounced on an open ball, feeding scrum half Brighten who passed back to Cox to score one of the tries of the season.
From the restart, a moment of confusion within the home side’s backs allowed Sleaford to gain a five-metre penalty from which their large number eight picked up and was knocked backwards by back row forwards Kwasau and Fuller – much to the delight of the sodden spectators.
Kesteven’s forwards continued to take their own ball at the set-piece but Sleaford’s size and weight advantage up front meant Kesteven’s defence needed to be strong, with Bartlett, Edwards and Archer harrying the opposition backs into making mistakes.
Second rows Taylor and Hughes took turns to drive into the heart of Sleaford’s pack all morning long and severely tested their resolve, ably supported by Fuller, Moth and Peters. Edwards had a great first half, but took a kick to the shin which finished his game at that stage.
Sleaford restarted the second half the better and found space out wide to score their first try.
Kesteven then kicked to their largest and quickest back who ran the ball straight back for another score – and the try being under the posts allowed a grateful kicker to add the extra points.
With the game drawing to a close, Sleaford’s superior numbers began to count and Sleaford put down their third try to close out the game.
Kesteven: Archer, Bartlett, Brenton, Brighten, B. Cole, J. Cole, Cox, Edwards, Fuller, Hodgson, Hughes, Kwasau, Moth, Palin, Parr, Peters, Salam, Tapson, Taylor (c).