RUGBY: Kesteven victory keeps promotion hunt alive

Kesteven forward Mark Sayle sends the Grimsby defence flying. Photo: Rob Parkin
Kesteven forward Mark Sayle sends the Grimsby defence flying. Photo: Rob Parkin

Midlands League 3

East (North)

Kesteven 31

Grimsby 14

A cold but perfectly still Woodnook was the setting for this tricky fixture as Kesteven’s first XV looked to gain a maximum set of league points to stay in the promotion hunt.

With injury and unavailability still an issue, Rob Cann started at hooker with Mark Sayle coming into the second row and the welcome return of Tony Woolerton at number eights. In the backs, the usual second string half back pairing of Morgan and Parker stepped up, while Brad Jepson returned to the wing with Olly Wood moving to full back and Aaron Whitaker slotting into centre.

A good crowd saw Kesteven slow to start, with the visitors showing they had come to cause an upset. A couple of early scrums won against the head saw Grimsby gain some good territory with Ks forced to show how good they were in defence.

Following an early penalty miss, the first try came very much against the run of play after a turnover saw the ball kicked long to the corner. Another turnover, closer to the Grimsby line, saw Ks go close before play was switched to the opposite side. Some great interpassing and unselfish play eventually saw Wood supply the scoring pass for Jepson to cross the line. Whitaker missed the tricky conversion.

The thought was this would settle Kesteven to their game plan, but Grimsby were intent on making life hard and went straight back on the attack, only a forward pass halting their next effort.

Kesteven were again able to apply a killer blow and show that the ability to take chances was key as Woolerton won another turnover inside the Kesteven 22. Quick hands ensured that Whitaker was released in space and he eased round the Grimsby defence with a smart step on the last defender to score at the posts for another impressive 60-metre score. Parker slotted the easy conversion.

The remainder of the half saw a more tactical battle with both sides vying for territory and neither really gaining the upper hand. Grimsby perhaps thought they were due some luck in the game and from one speculative kick ahead, it looked like Parker was going to take the ball on the full for another attack, but it knocked on straight into a Grimsby hand and, with Kesteven short of defenders this time, the visitors kept their composure and completed the try. The conversion was successful for a 12-7 half time scoreline.

Half time changes saw Dan Turner come on for Ken Lines, as skipper Tom Webster told the side what he expected from the second 40.

The second half began brightly for the home side, with the introduction of Turner proving fruitful as he brought his brand of dynamic running all over the pitch. Now seemingly on the front foot, Kesteven were looking to kill off the challenge of the spirited visitors and search for the extra two scores required for the bonus point.

A penalty kick to the corner saw Ks set up a maul from the lineout. A powerful initial drive looked to have been stopped illegally, but the home pack did not wait for a referee’s whistle and took matters into their own hands, freeing Turner to drive over the line for a brilliant forwards try. Whitaker took the wide conversion and slotted it with ease.

This try gave Ks the boost they needed as they looked for the bonus point score. They did not have to wait long as this time Turner turned provider. A break on half way saw Parker and Wood find Turner in space. He took the ball on and was tackled just shy of the line. Despite suffering an ankle injury in the tackle, he showed great awareness to offload to the supporting Tom Corradine to complete the score for the bonus point.

It was a somewhat muted celebration as the unlucky Turner again limped away from the pitch after a sublime 10-minute contribution.

The injury saw a reshuffle with Jordan Payne making his first team debut on the wing. Grimsby saw that Kesteven were reorganising and had the wherewithal to capitalise on this for a second score.

Having pulled the Black Army defence to one side, a quick switch saw the ball worked to the left wing where the tight head prop showed surprising pace to go over in the corner. The successful kick from out wide showed Kesteven that Grimsby were not ready to lie down.

What was needed was a final try to put the Grimsby resurgence to bed. Kesteven had consistently asked questions of the Grimsby defence all day but a lack of support at telling times saw them turned over and attacks snuffed out.

Finally, they managed to get their more fluent game going which Grimsby struggled to defend against. A short pass from Dingley back at scrum half found Parker who, with a hint of a dummy and an attempt at a sidestep, forced his way to the line. Seemingly held up, the veteran fly half rolled over to touch the ball down. He converted his own try and Kesteven now looked comfortable for a vital win.

Grimsby, as expected, were always looking to capitalise on their 2twotries and threw everything they had, but Ks’ aggressive defence – particularly from Pert and Woolerton – found them wanting.

Kesteven: Odams, R. Cann, Purvis, Sayle, Pert, Lines, Webster, Woolerton, Morgan, Parker, Corradine, Dingley, Whitaker, Jepson, Wood. Reps: Osbourne, Turner, Payne.