A depleted stoke side missing half a dozen first team regulars from the starting line-up returned to impressive form away to Edgbaston Dixonians on Saturday.
The starting Stoke line up was missing Dave Bennion and Simon Price through work commitments, Ben Cornwall and Robbie Spruce through injury, whilst Captain Chris Rowley and prop James Salt were rested on the bench. Stoke however took only 4 minutes to open the scoring with the first of two tries from Steve Talbot. The conversion was missed but Stoke only had to wait until the ninth minute to score again through a penalty from Sam Christmas following a Dixonians offside decision.
Rested prop James Salt only got to enjoy 11 minutes on the bench before an injury to loose head Rich Brown forced a replacement. Stoke forwards won a Dixonians scrum on the home side’s 22 m line and centre Wayne Dickens pass released Tim Wood to score on the blind side and this time Sam Christmas successfully converted to leave the score at 0 – 15 after 16 minutes.
A catch and drive move by the stoke pack saw prop James Shaw dive over for a try after 25 min and Christmas duly converted. Only 3 min later a fine backs move from deep in their own half saw Steve Talbot break clear and his pass released winger Andy Marsh to score. The conversion was missed but again Stoke only had to wait until the 30th minute for Sam Christmas to make amends when he broke from half way, kicked ahead and gathered his own kick to core an unconverted try.
Stoke had to do without the services for Paul Ramage for 10 minutes when he yellow cared for stamping but during his absence Steve Talbot scored his second try which Sam Christmas duly converted. Stoke took only a further 2 minutes to be on the scoreboard again when Hooker Rob Glenn scored following a run from Marsh with excellent support from Wayne Dicken. Sam Christmas was unable to convert and Stoke led at half time 0 – 44.
The second half was marred by an unfortunate neck injury to a Dixonians player which saw him taken to hospital and following a half an hour delay the game was restarted on an adjacent pitch. Stoke were the first of the two sides to get back into their stride as Any Marsh’s pass released Sam Christmas for his second try. Dixonians then set up maul after 52 min which resulted in a try for their tight head prop which was converted by the scrum half. Stoke however kept up the pressure as prop James Salt attacked down the blind side of a Stoke driving maul to score a try converted by Sam Christmas. This moved the score to Dixonians 7 Stoke 56).
A scrum 5m out from the Dixonians line won by the Stoke forwards who released Sam Christmas for his hat trick try which he then duly converted and 7 minutes later a Stoke lineout and maul saw Rob Glenn score his second try. In the 70th minute Dixonians scored a deserved consolation try following a good maul from their forwards and the game ended.
The full time score of Dixonians 12 – Stoke 68 puts the Hartwell Lane club in fine fettle for Saturday’s RFU Midlands Intermediate Cup Final versus Lutterworth, kick off 3pm.