Two’s edge hard fought win, 13 - 12 at Loughborough!
The Blue’s two’s put on a front five masterclass as forward dominance eventually paid of with a 13-12 win over a combative and spirited Loughborough side.
Kettering started strong, carrying hard into the Loughborough defence before moving the point of attack wider, forcing the opposition pack to work from the off. Despite the Blue’s dominance, it was Loughborough who struck first however, an intercept try and conversion put Kettering 7-0 down after 10 minutes. The score did not phase the Blue Boys however, and they continued their forward onslaught. Strong carries, particularly from Santos, Ross, Miller and co-captains Coles and Aldwinckle, started to force errors from Loughborough’s ball carriers.
Those errors allowed Kettering to even further assert their dominance, the strong and experienced pack able to drive Loughborough back at will. The backs now had a platform to play, and after another punishing set of carries inside the opposition 22, Owen Rees spotted Milton in the space on the blind side and intelligently switched the play. The young flanker barrelled through two defenders to score in the corner. Whitehead narrowly missed the conversion from the touchline and the score stood at 7-5 with twenty minutes gone.
Loughborough were stoic however and continued to battle hard in spite of the Blue’s onslaught. Their backs were sharp off what little ball they could gather, and they showed it when they got their opportunity on twenty-seven minutes. A mis-timed Kettering lineout saw the ball clear the jumper and was well taken at the tail by Loughborough, who moved the ball wide quickly and accurately; Kettering’s defence was unable to prevent them scoring in the corner and making the score 12-7.
A Callum Whitehead penalty just before the half time whistle meant the trams went in with the home side leading 12-10.
Kettering continued where they left off in the second half, absolutely dominant in the scrum on both side’s ball and increasingly capable in the lineout, with Josh Aldwinckle regularly stealing opposition throws. Unfortunately the Blue’s were not able to capitalise on their relentless pressure, Loughborough’s defence and a slippery ball holding them at bay. The maul became an increasingly effective weapon, and it nearly lead to Kettering taking the lead on fifty-two minutes when James Aldwickle sprinted free down the touchline off the back off a fifteen-metre driving maul. A sidestep and crushing handoff left him one on one with the full back, but his pass inside could not be gathered by the supporting Rees and Kettering again left opposition territory empty handed.
The last thing Loughborough’s battling but tiring pack wanted to see was fresh front row players joining the fray, but that’s what they got on sixty minutes when Matt English and Justin Griffiths bolstered the Blues ranks. The dominance continued, as did the failure to capitalise upon it, and Loughborough began to threaten with their backs once more. Strong tackles from Whitehead, full back Cade Greenwood and Josh Alwinckle keeping them at bay before Milton blew apart a Loughborough ruck and forced a turnover. Strong running put the Blues in to the opposition five and it was only an offside call on Loughborough’s flanker that halted their progress to the line. Whitehead took the points to make it 13-12 to the Blues with ten minutes to play.
Kettering tightened up in defence and effective kicking prevented Loughborough making any progress, and nearly led to a try for substitute Tom Allen after a pinpoint crossfield kick. The Blue’s thought it was all over when debutant Steven Dysel sent a fifty-metre kick into touch inside Loughborough’s twenty -two, but there was time for the lineout. With one last opportunity to snatch the game, Loughborough tried to play out from inside their own five, and their positive play was almost rewarded when a smart sidestep from their centre set him free up the middle. Seemingly from nowhere, a diving tap tackle from Josh Aldwinckle brought him down, Kettering’s forwards recovered to drive the ruck backwards, but somehow the Loughborough scrum half got the ball out to his backline, who again tried to play out, this time from behind their own posts. A thumping two man tackle from Greenwood and winger Harry Underwood forced a fumble out of play and the final whistle confirmed a tough but well deserved victory.
Man of the Match: Josh Aldwinckle.