Kenilworth 26 – Stoke 19
In the final match of the 2016 – 2017 season Kenilworth RFC recorded a hard earned bonus point victory at home to Stoke-on-Trent RFC, writes Mick O’Brien.
A large crowd, which included the patrons of the Molly Olly charity lunch, ensured a great atmosphere. Special mascot for today’s game was young Alfie Dingley who proudly led the team onto the pitch with captain Thompson and then presented the match ball to referee Mr J Pointon from the Gloucestershire Society. The match kicked off in near perfect conditions for running rugby on a firm sandy pitch. Stoke started the stronger running the ball at every opportunity. It took some tremendous front-on tackling from Jones and Hickman in particular and good scrambling defence form O’Brien, Hannam and Kaufman to prevent Stoke taking an early lead. Kenilworth gradually grew into the game and with some strong scrummaging gained a foothold in the Stoke half. A sweeping move released Hannam down the touchline and only last ditch tackling by the Stoke cover prevented a try. Shortly after, Kenilworth turned down the opportunity for a kick at goal and kicked to the corner for an attacking 5m lineout. The lineout was taken cleanly and the Kenilworth 8 set up an unstoppable driving maul which culminated with Thompson getting the touchdown. Hickman added the extras to give Kenilworth a 7-0 lead. Stoke responded strongly and equalised following some strong running. At this stage Stoke took control and Kenilworth found it difficult to contain their off-loading game. Stoke added a further 12 points through 2 tries and a conversion and looked in control at 7-19. The next score was crucial. Somewhat against the run of play Renowden, who had harried his opposite number relentlessly all game, scored a typical sniping try which was converted by Hickman. Half-time score 14-19.
A lot of rugby in the second half was played around the half-way line with both sides cancelling each other out. This was positive from Kenilworth as they were preventing Stoke off-loading. Strong tackling from O’Brien, Kaufman and Spriggs – who had replaced the injured Hannam – kept Kenilworth in the game. Quick tap and go penalties maintained the tempo and momentum. From a turnover penalty Kenilworth kicked to the corner and set up another driving maul. Unfortunately on this occasion the ball was knocked-on as the line beckoned and Stoke cleared. Kenilworth kept up the pressure and following some hard running from Kaufman and quick recycling by the pack, Renowden saw Space behind the Stoke defence. A neat grubber kick was grounded by the speedy Mapletoft to level the scores at 19-19. Hickman was just wide with the difficult conversion.
Stoke tried everything to regain the initiative but resolute defending kept them at bay. From a penalty in mid-field Kenilworth once again kicked to the corner for an attacking lineout. The line out was overthrown but O’Brien reacted the quickest from fly-half and gathered the loose ball. An inch perfect pass found the supporting Kaufman who powered over in the left corner. Hickman with his best kick of the day added the extras and Kenilworth led 26 – 19. Stoke kicked off chasing an equalising score but Kenilworth fought for everything and comfortably saw out the remaining minutes. A good win and performance against a resolute Stoke team in what was a disappointing season overall augers well for next season.
Pics of the game can be viewed HERE