Kenilworth 27 Stoke 16: Cresswell takes a blow to head and then adds knockout punch

The Stoke defence takes unusual measures to try and stop the progress of Kenilworth's Gareth Renowden. Picture submitted
The Stoke defence takes unusual measures to try and stop the progress of Kenilworth's Gareth Renowden. Picture submitted
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A combination of patience, good finishing and character saw Kenilworth maintain their winning start to the season, writes Ralph Murray.

Kenilworth were on the charge early on and when Stoke went over the top at a ruck, the hosts took a quick tap for Bobby Thompson to crash over for the opening score, which went unconverted.

Stoke opened their account with a converted penalty and enjoyed a period of sustained pressure but, with an overlap established, they often chose to put boot to ball when the run looked a better option.

Stoke again looked to attack and their centre’s attempted offload was well read by Ed Hannam, who chipped ahead and won the foot race with the visiting lock to ground the ball close to the posts.

Hickman added the extras to move the lead out to 12-3 with a quarter of an hour gone.

The influential Stoke nine was carded for the latest in a succession of infringements but Kenilworth were unable to press home their advantage and, as the pace of the game dropped, Stoke reduced the deficit to three points at the interval courtesy of two penalties.

Kenilworth began the second half with increased urgency but a serious injury to the Stoke hooker stymied their progress and when play resumed it was the visitors who took the initiative.

A series of attacks were thwarted by some brave defending, with Simon Tyler chasing down the Stoke winger on one occasion to deny a certain a score.

The Ks centre was just as active in possession and one mazy run saw him beat two tackles before offloading but the ball eventually was bundled into touch.

The hosts showed admirable patience in building their attacks and Alex Selby offloaded to Thompson who drew the defenders before finding winger Joe Yeomanson with a precision long-range pass. The winger made sure in the corner and the lead was out to 17-9.

However, a quick pick-up at the base of the scrum found the Stoke full-back arriving at pace and the 15 outran the Ks defence to score near the sticks with the successful conversion cutting the difference to just a point.

Hickman looked to convert every Stoke clearance into an opportunity to run at the defence and from one such move the full-back combined well with Rhys Jones who made good ground before being hauled down but Stoke infringed and Hickman converted to stretch the lead to 20-16.

With so much time to be added for the numerous stoppages, the Glasshouse faithful watched nervously as the clock ticked down but their fears were allayed by an unsavoury moment.

As Jonny Cresswell looked to free himself from the grasp of a tackler, the Stoke tight-head took exception and punched the Kenilworth captain in the face.

Unsurprisingly, a red card was the sanction and Ks took advantage when Renowden darted inside and offloaded to Cresswell who charged over for the definitive score.