A COMMITTED performance was not enough for Kenilworth on the road at familiar foes Stoke as they opened their Midland 1 West campaign with a 15-10 defeat on Saturday.
After a promising pre-season, Kenilworth were eager to get their teeth into some meaningful rugby with Ben Capitani, Will Johnson, Liam Leeson and Dave Rudd all making the debuts.
There was also a welcome return for the grizzled veteran Ed Hunter who played his first league game in over seven years.
A blustery wind and driving rain greeted both sides who tried to play with pace and ambition despite the conditions.
The game proved to be incredibly tight with neither side getting on the scoresheet until the 36th minute when Kalum Goodfellow found a way through the Stoke defence before new signing Capitani scampered in on the right hand side but the conversion was missed.
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 second half followed a similar pattern as the first in what was another tight affair with both sides enjoying periods of possession.
Kenilworth’s forward runners tried to blast through the fringes by going round the corner but early season rustiness proved 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 for 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 although once again the tricky conversion was missed.
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 minutes battering the Stoke line with big carries from the likes of Hunter, Thompson and Went but they could not find the gap or the composure to get over the line again on what was a frustrating afternoon.
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 did not function during training, Kenilworth will look forward to a home derby against ambitious Stratford this week.