Kenilworth are left frustrated by opening bonus-point defeat

Kenilworth line up ahead of their opening Midlands One West match of the season.
Kenilworth line up ahead of their opening Midlands One West match of the season.
  • Midlands One West
  • Stoke-on-Trent 15 Kenilworth 10

After a promising pre-season campaign Kenilworth were eager to get their teeth into some meaningful rugby and this match certainly delivered on commitment and effort.

Kenilworth introduced four new signings in fly-half Ben Capitani, back five 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 close to eight years.

The fact that he was still carrying hard to the line after 77 minutes sums up his exceptional contribution to the cause.

Summer in Stoke was certainly over 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 eight Kalum Goodfellow blasted through the defence and made 15 yards. The ruck was cleared quickly and new signing Capitani scampered in on the right. In difficult conditions the kick was missed.

Instead of consolidating, the kick-off saw an innocuous clearance returned with interest and, capitalising on a poor chase, the Stoke backs broke at pace for Calum Brown to score an unconverted try.

The opening half had been a tight affair, with Kenilworth edging the lineouts with some promising work from the rangy 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 the travelling three-quarters took time to settle but offered glimpses of dangerous endeavour.

The second half proved equally cagey with both sides enjoying periods of possession.

Kenilworth’s forward runners tried to blast through the fringes by going around the corner but early-season rustiness created errors and miscommunication.

It was a mistake 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 for a 12-5 lead.

Kenilworth upped their efforts and sensibly looked to tighten their approach as the weather deteriorated.

They were assisted 15 minutes from the final whistle when 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 with the hosts holding a slender two-point advantage.

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 six minutes battering the Stoke line with big carries from the likes of Hunter, Thompson and Went but could not find the gap, or the composure, to get over the line.