A much-changed Kenilworth, with two teenagers making their first XV debuts, another on the bench and 22-year-old James Nichol also making his debut on the wing, just failed to take the spoils at Stoke but the spirited display ended with a losing bonus point, writes Willie Whitesmith.
Kenilworth kicked off assisted by a strong, cold, wind, but it was Stoke who took an early lead with a successful penalty, aided by the post.
The game progressed with Stoke on the offensive but good defence by the visitors kept the score at 3-0.
Kenilworth were now starting to come into the game and creating chances which were not being taken.
The pressure eventually told and fly-half Harry O’Brien, aided by the wind, struck a long-range penalty against a post.
The ever-alert Rhys Jones pounced on the ball and aided by Hector Smith caused Stoke to infringe and O’Brien had the easiest of tasks to level the scores at with 25 minutes played.
Both teams were now creating scoring chances but silly mistakes, caused by the cold, wet conditions, and good defence, prevented any scores.
One Stoke attack broke down and O’Brien took the opportunity to send a long, thunderous kick to the Stoke five-metre line.
From the ensuing lineout, Kenilworth won a scrum but then conceded a penalty which Stoke took with a quick tap and ran the length of the pitch for a converted score and a seven-point advantage.
Stoke were now pressing at every opportunity and they maintained the intent after the break, with Kenilworth mostly electing to kick for touch with the many penalties they were awarded.
On one occasion Ks did well to disrupt Stoke’s lineout but then proceeded to lose possession. This resulted in a rather harsh yellow card for Tom Lane for what the referee deemed a deliberate knock-on.
Stoke continued to dominate but Kenilworth were beginning to come into the game, defending well most notably at the scrum, with centre Ed Hannam proving an able deputy for Lane.
Stoke’s frustration was typified by a long drop goal attempt which went wide.
With 20 minutes remaining, Kenilworth sensed they could score and were now dominant in the scrum.
However, Stoke were still dangerous on the break and they won a kickable penalty which went wide.
With five minutes remaining, Ks player-coach Jonny Cresswell took the field in place of James Jackson.
However, try as they might, Kenilworth could not break down the Stoke defence and the game finished with the visitors camped on the Stoke line but unable to penetrate it in a pointless second half.
In the end this was a decent result for Kenilworth with such a young squad on show, with the debutants James Nichol, Tommy Jones and Hector Smith all showing well.