Kenilworth come from behind to earn narrow victory on the road at Stoke
By Dom Carrick
17th Jan 2023 | Rugby
In the second game back after the Christmas break, Kenilworth delivered the only away win in the weekend's league fixtures, with a 23-25 victory at Stoke.
Away-days at Stoke are never easy, be that the often inclement Staffordshire weather blowing across the exposed pitch, or the hardened efforts of the home side in front of their own supporters.
Recent encounters between the two sides meant this too would likely be a close affair.
Kenilworth, unusually without talismanic skipper Bobby Thompson, playing in the home game vs Manor Park otherwise fielded a strong side with the return of Andressen and Freemantle to the starting team, and debutant Max Robinson on the bench following stand-out performances this season.
It was Kenilworth who opened their account first, when with 15 minutes on the clock, increasingly influential Morgan capitalised on a Stoke infringement, to knock over a tricky penalty. Score 0-3.
Having absorbed some heavy home pressure, Kenilworth were looking to build on taking the lead, however within a couple of minutes, a lapse of concentration and some sloppy tackling let Stoke in, to level the score; the home flyhalf, impressive with the boot all day, taking the score to 3-3.
The next 20 minutes of the game saw the visitors struggling to deal with the hard running Stoke forwards; successively dominant in collisions, Stoke now had their tales up, Kenilworth looking sluggish and heavy legged in the muddy conditions.
Eventually, the stout Kenilworth defence gave-out with Stoke neatly converting the lineout catch and drive, conversion added. Score 10-3.
Kenilworth were struggling to get into any form of rhythm, anything positive was quickly cancelled out with an error, which from the sidelines, looked more of our own doing than as a result of Stoke pressure.
In the last score of the first half, Stoke added to their tally, with another successful penalty kick, following the dull actions of the Kenilworth forwards blocking the Stoke fullback on his kick and chase; penalty where the ball bounced - Kenilworth players looking at the ref when a mirror would have been more appropriate. Half time score 13-3.
Whilst Stoke had a significant lead on the scoreboard, there was a feeling that they had not perhaps made full use of the strong wind which, second half, would be in their faces.
If Kenilworth were to turn this round, they would need everything at their disposal or see their winning streak come to and end.
The early few minutes of the second half were a continuation of the first; that was until Kenilworth played their way out of defence to just inside the opposition half.
The visiting support was finally given something to cheer about when scrum half, Sam Miles chipped over the top of the home defence for wing Ben Harrison to win the foot race and sit down for a first Kenilworth try of the afternoon. Score 13-8.
From the restart, Stoke strung a few neat phases together until Kenilworth were adjudged not rolling away at the breakdown. Penalty kick added taking the score to Stoke 16-8.
As the game entered the final quarter, Kenilworth field position started to tell, and now the visitors were starting to find their flow.
Led by second row Lewis Kavanagh, the Kenilworth forwards were now increasingly physically dominant and from a lineout in the home 22, pommeled the home line, eventually Stone scoring the try with Morgan converting. Score: 16-15 - game On.
Kenilworth centre Todd Freemantle, back in the side having recovered from a long knee injury made a significant contribution before being substituted, the heavy pitch and a first game for a while, not easy bed-fellows.
Enter the fray, Max Robinson to wing. In his 15 minutes on the pitch, Robinson did everything asked of him, particularly when thwarting a Stoke attack, tackling his opponent hard enough to dislodge the ball and relieve the pressure for his team.
With the home crowd now all but silenced and no-doubt clock watching, Kenilworth continued to turn the home defence and make them play out from depth, into the persistent wind.
When the opportunity finally came it was Morgan on the end of several heavy carries to find space and cut through for a try. He duly converted his own try, taking Kenilworth into the lead for the first time, score 16-22.
To Stoke's credit they dug in and started to re-find their first half form, and were perhaps unlucky to concede another penalty within range of Morgan's boot. Score 16-25.
The last eight minutes of the game were all Stoke.
Continued pressure on the Blue and Gold line earned them a converted try and Kenilworth's Ben Harrison sent to the bin for slowing the ball down. Final score 23-25.
Not pretty but Kenilworth gained their fifth win in succession, having shown real character and commitment to each other and the system to reel in plucky Stoke.
Next up Bridgnorth at Glasshouse Lane.