Top of the table clash
Kings maintain top spot after nail biting encounter
Kings Norton 2nds 20- Bridgenorth 17
Similarities between today's game and the victorious World Cup Winning team of 2003 do not end at the final score line. For the Kings Norton men, today was their World Cup final. The game had been built up in the weeks prior as a must win game to maintain their position at the top of the table against arguably the best team in the league and the only team that had blemished their record this season.
After a stirring pre match team talk from Captain Smurph in the changing room, there was a feeling that no matter what Bridgenorth threw at KN, it was to be their day.
Winning the toss and deciding to play into the strong wind, King’s tactics were to keep the ball tight, defend hard and trust in their high tempo game. That was the case from kick off.
The home team were focused from the outset and forced a Bridgenorth error which gave them good territory in the opponents half. Although an early line break through the hands of the back line was thwarted by the aggressive Bridgenorth defence, the intention of KN was plain to see. A couple of silly penalties pushed Kings Norton back into their own half but strong running through the midfield from the centre partnership of the two captains Crompton and Smurph gave the territory back in KN's favour. Having won an attacking scrum just right of centre No. 8 Alex Hardy picked and went down the blind, supported by the ever present James Luc Pritchard they made ground over the gain line. Joining in on the attack came full back Jonny Edam from a deep running line to create a brilliant overlap for Robert Why to exploit with his gas. A strong straight run looked to be covered from the Bridgenorth full back and scrum half covering round but cutting back in and wrong footing the defence Why went for the line and score the first points of the game.
Having creaked for the first time this season, the Kings Norton front five began to steady the set play in the scrum. Needing to get quick ball from it though was paramount as the weightier Bridgenorth pack were continuing to pile on the pressure. Alex Hardy, putting in the performance of the season, was controlling the ball at the base even when the pack was taking a backwards step. Another pick and go down the blind side in the Bridgenorth 22 was offloaded to Jonny Edam again, but on this occasion he saw the gap himself and went over to make the score 10-0.
The Bridgenorth machine then kicked into action and for a majority of the second quarter the Kings Norton men were asked to defend against the heavy artillery and powerful runners. Having made ground into the 22, a switch pass wrong footed the defence and the Bridgenorth inside centre was able to break through to score under the posts and with a successful conversion the scores were now at 10-7. From the kick off Bridgenorth made territory up field again and when a kickable penalty was awarded to them they duly took the 3 points to level the scores.
With little under 10 minutes left of the first half, the following moments shaped the rest of the game. Once again Bridgenorth powered forward and it seemed that their dominance would crush the spirit of the Kings men. Camped in their 22 ferocious tackles were been made all over the park from Sam Jones, Cor E Allan and the ever present Nick Freeman. An injury to Dave Bacon meant that a re-shuffle in the line-up was made. On came Jamie the Roquette, whose off-field argument with his girlfriend had put him in the mood for a highly physical game. With Bridgenorth held up on over the try line the resulting scrum had the Kings Norton defence drifting across the pitch. Some great counter rucking from Graham Garrett and D-Az Lamb resulted in a penalty for the kings men. Quick thinking and a quick tap from GG saw him galloping from his own try line, only to be cynically pulled back from one of the retreating Bridgenorth players.
Norton decided to run it out of their half firstly through the power of their forwards and then the elegance of their backs. Having made ground up to half way, the big lump of the Bridgenorth second row decided to make a late tackle on Patrick Swayze. Fed up with their indiscipline the referee rightly went to his pocket and showed the Bridgenorth player a yellow card.
The home team were on the ascendancy having kept Bridgenorth out despite their continued attacks and with the wind advantage in the second half. Kings were now surely favourites for this tie.
A tactical substitution saw the glorious return of Brian May. Having spent 15 months in rehabilitation he hoped for a less of a pressure cooker situation of a match to be thrown into. However, with the wind being such an advantage his kicking option was preferred at 12.
Kings made the man advantage along with the wind count. After what seemed like 10 minutes of been camped in the Bridgenorth 22, a training ground move practised in their living room came off between Pete and his son Charlie who scored under the posts.
It was all Kings Norton’s way for much of the second half. Further pressure led to a penalty in front of the posts. Whereas the impetus was to run in the first half, the points had to be taken.
The final 10 minutes seemed to be prolonged as the referee seemed to want to engineer a dramatic finish. And that he did. Smurph was sin binned for a reckless high tackle that could have led to the young Bridgenorth player receiving an Oscar. With seconds left in the clock Bridgenorth finally showed what firepower they had in their backs and their full back ran in for a converted try to make the scores 20-17.
Now, Patrick Swayze is known for his striking good looks but he also has an excellent rugby brain. Speaking to the referee on the way back to the centre spot, he confirmed that if he kicked the ball with it bouncing once into touch then the final whistle could be blown. He calmly stepped up, switched the direction and like a Rory McElroy 9 iron chipped the ball, it bounced once on the 10 metre line and then on in to touch.
Kings Norton have now put the destiny of their season in their own hands with one win out of the last two games ensuring promotion but also the Championship.