Stratford 35 Kenilworth 9
Midlands One West
STRATFORD leapfrogged Saturday’s victims Kenilworth into second place as they celebrated an impressive victory at Pearcecroft.
The ground was bathed in autumn sunshine as Stratford welcomed their local rivals and there was a minute’s silence before kick-off to remember three long-term friends and supporters of Stratford – Bruno Martin-Neuville, Roger Huxley and Tom Fox – whilst Kenilworth were also honouring their own Geof Jordan.
Kenilworth went into the match top of the table after three matches and looking to extend their perfect start to the season, whilst Stratford had to pick themselves up following a disappointing loss the previous week at Hereford.
Kenilworth kicked-off with the sun at their backs and soon had Stratford under pressure.
For the first ten minutes Kenilworth had most of the possession and territory against a nervous looking home side and were rewarded with a penalty a few metres in from the left wing. Kenilworth’s Josh Hickman was in good form throughout with the boot and Stratford trailed by three.
The score spurred Stratford into life and soon it was their turn to apply the pressure. From a lineout just inside the Kenilworth twenty-two second row Tom Mylott took the ball at full stretch and set Stratford on the attack.
The ball was quickly moved across the pitch and inside centre Jack Young made the crucial break through the Kenilworth defence. Full back Simon Brain was in support to take Young’s offload and cross the line for a try.
The conversion by winger and Stratford’s own kicking machine Nathan Geekie was good and the score was 7-3.
Just three minutes later Stratford increased their lead. At a rather scrappy scrum flanker and erstwhile centre Sam Joyce powered his way through the Kenilworth defence for a second try, this time on the left, and once again Geekie took the extras and Stratford doubled their score.
The momentum was now with Stratford and they dominated Kenilworth at the set-piece. Both defences held firm although the Stratford attacks looked the more threatening and it was only from the place kick that Kenilworth were able to add to their tally and had moved the score to 14-9 at 25 minutes to stay in touch.
Stratford then surged forward again in the last ten minutes of the half. Good ball from a lineout on the right was quickly spread wide to the left and into the hands of centre Sam Kirby who sprinted down the left wing and powered over the line for a try in the corner.
Geekie made the difficult conversion look easy as the ball sailed over the bar with a good inch to spare.
Geekie himself crossed the line soon afterwards for Stratford’s fourth try and a guaranteed bonus point and he then converted his own score and at half time Stratford had an imposing 28-9 lead.
The scoreline remained unchanged for most of the second half as Kenilworth never really threatened in attack and, although Stratford made a few opportunities, they were unable to break through the defensive line.
It was with less than ten minutes to go that the next score came as an enterprising Stratford attack worked the ball left and right in the Kenilworth twenty-two.
It looked as if any one of three or four Stratford players might have scored but the frantic Kenilworth defence kept them at bay. At last the ball popped loose from a ruck and replacement tight head Tom Hall scooped up the ball and sprinted over the line before jogging between the posts to make sure Geekie’s last conversion was an easy one.
The final score delighted the home crowd and seemed to shock the Kenilworth supporters who faded away from the touchline towards the end of the match.
This was a great result for Stratford after the disappointment of the previous week and puts them into second place in the table behind Burton, while Kenilworth slip down to third.
Man of the match for Stratford was Kirby for his all-round performance in defence and attack, whilst the only blot on the day was a nasty-looking last minute knee injury to full back Simon Brain.
Stratford’s next game is on Saturday at Leek, who have had a poor start to their season, and Stratford will definitely be looking for maximum points again.