Midlands 1 West
Stoke on Trent RFC 15 Kenilworth RFC 10
The season opener saw Kenilworth make the journey up the traffic laden M6 to take on familiar foes at Stoke RFC.
After a promising pre season campaign the squad were eager to get their teeth into some meaningful rugby and this match certainly delivered on commitment and effort.
Kenilworth introduced 4 new signings to the squad in fly half Ben Capitani, back 5 forward Will Johnson and scrum halves/utility backs Liam Leeson and Dave Rudd. There was also the very welcome return of the grizzled veteran tighthead Ed Hunter who played his first league game in about 7 or 8 years. The fact that he was still carrying hard to the line after 77 minutes of the match sums up his exceptional contribution to the cause, hopefully he will be able to climb out of bed by at least Wednesday!
The Summer in Stoke was certainly over (no surprise there) and the sides played in blustery winds and driving rain throughout the match, the ground however was in good condition and both sides tried to play with pace and ambition.
The game proved to be incredibly tight remaining scoreless until the 36th minute when number 8 Kalum Goodfellow blasted through the defence and made 10-15 yards, the ruck was cleared quickly and new signing Capitani scampered in on the right hand side. In difficult conditions the kick was missed and Kenilworth took a 5 point lead.
Instead of consolidating and finishing the half off well the kick off saw an innocuous clearance kick returned with interest, capitalising on a poor chase the Stoke backs broke at pace and Calum Brown crossed for an unconverted try.
The opening half had been a tight affair - the scrums ebbed and flowed with neither side gaining any real superiority, both dominating and creaking at alternate scrums. Kenilworth edged the lineouts with some promising work from the rangy Will Johnson and steady throwing in the conditions from hooker Harry Abell. The Stoke backs looked lively if a little unimaginative and with a few faces unavailable this week the travelling threequarters took time to settle but offered glimpses of dangerous endeavour.
Again the 2nd half continued to be a tight affair with both sides enjoying periods of possession, Kenilworth's forward runners trying to blast through the fringes by going round the corner but early season rustiness proving to create errors and miscommunication. It was an error at the breakdown that allowed the Stoke half back to spot a gap and scurry under the posts for a crucial try which was converted - 12-5.
Kenilworth upped their efforts even more and sensibly looked to tighten their approach as the weather deteriorated, they were assisted when 15 minutes from the end Stoke lost a player to the sin bin and after a series of catch and drives the pack finally drove over with Gareth Renowden pilfering the try. The tricky conversion was missed and a tense finish was on the cards 12-10.
Another error in possession led to a couple of kickable Stoke penalties, one of which was dispatched to stretch the lead to 15-10.
Kenilworth spent the last 5 or 6 minutes battering the Stoke line with big carries from the likes of Hunter, Thompson and Went but couldn't find the gap or the composure to get over the line.
A frustrating end to a tight match - the players disappointment was clearly evident but on reflection there were many positives and a losing bonus point from a trip to Stoke is not disastrous. With a number of key players returning to the side, the integration of some excellent newcomers and a chance to work on the areas that didn't function during training this week the side will look forward to a home derby versus ambitious Stratford this week.
Piccies of game available at: