by Paul Crocker
On a gorgeous Spring day, Kings Norton made the trip out to Ledbury with their destiny in their own hands. Victory would have seen them crowned champions of the league, with promotion assured.
Kings had the wind in their faces in the first half, but from the start they set up good field position in the hosts’ half and set about getting on the scoreboard. When Ledbury had the ball they were able to get territory via the double whammy of the boot and the wind, but Kings clearly had the dominant scrum, allowing them to seemingly shove their counterparts around at will. Strong forward play took Kings up to the Ledbury 22, from where Kings’ towering number 8 Alex Hard powered over in the corner for an unconverted try.
Just as Kings should have been capitalising on their early score, they lost focus. Perhaps it was the sense of occasion, or perhaps it was premature jubilation. Either way, Ledbury went through the phases and were suddenly on the Kings line. A five yard penalty was conceded and Ledbury crashed over for a try that evened the score. Under the posts, skipper Smurph chewed a strip off the team, urging the lads to get themselves back in the game. From the restart, Kings put the pressure on to get the ball and retake the initiative. A glorious front-row double act saw Kev Edwards and Ian Buckle get things moving - nothing on God’s sweet earth or Ledbury’s 3rd XV was going to stop that pair in their tracks. The rest of the forwards got in on the act, getting to within inches of the line. The last gasp defence was able to hold the ball up over the line, but with a five yard scrum to Kings, that was only going to be a temporary respite. From the scrum, the returning Brian May ran a pre-planned move, firstly with the dummy to Pete Crumpet, and then the pop to Paul Cacker, putting him through for an unopposed run-in under the posts. With the extras added courtesy of May’s dainty right foot, Kings were again where they wanted to be.
The momentum from the try couldn’t be maintained though, and despite plenty of ball and endeavour, the execution wasn’t there for Kings. Worse, a fumbled ball led to a long kick and chase from Ledbury who were able to sweep through in numbers to get their own converted try, so levelling the scores at 12-12. As the minutes ticked down to half-time, Kings earned themselves an eminently kickable penalty. Rather than try their luck with a line-out in the corner, Smurph opted for the pop at goal. Brian May duly obliged, so Kings were able to go into half-time 12-15 up; ahead, but only by the most slender of margins.
As the second half began, Kings knew that the game was now theirs for the taking. A modest lead, the wind behind them, but above all, the confidence that the pressure exerted in the first half would now translate into points. The young tyros Jake Jones and Jamie “Roquette” Thomas were clattering into contact with almost reckless abandon, with the veterans of the pack, Graham Garret and Nick Freeman, then showing that age and experience could also punch holes in the Ledbury ranks. Full back Ant Ginster then made the arcing break that stretched the Ledbury back line to breaking point on the right flank. The ball was recycled and up popped Jake Jones again, and with ten metres to the try line, he wasn’t going to be stopped in a hurry. Try Kings! The restart fleetingly granted territory to Ledbury, but a dancing run from Mick Fahey took it back to them with interest and again Kings were off. The scrum was doing the business that well and truly kept the hosts’ scrum under the cosh, with young Ellis Wilkes taking over from the nimble Ian Buckle. Ledbury were only able to clear their lines as far as the 22, so from the line-out Kings were itching for due reward for their efforts. The ball came to fly half Brian May. As he took it up to the gain line he had options either side: to his left, the dashing Paul Cacker, and to his right, the youngster Charlene-Mae. It must have been instinct that took over for Brian May. He was powerless to resist the call to his right of “Dad, Dad, pass to me, Dad, pass to me”. Fortunately for Charlene-Mae, he rewarded the Old Man’s confidence in him by crashing over for the try.
Kings were now nigh-on certain that victory would be theirs, but they were still hungry to get the points to make victory certain. Once the field position was set up inside Ledbury territory, it was scrum half Captain James Luc Prichard who started and finished things. Started, in the sense that he threw a rubbish pass that the backs had to clear up for him, but then from the resulting quick ball, he was able to dart round the side and his pace saw him run in for a try under the posts. Seconds after the ball sailed through the uprights, the referee blew for full time, prompting the assembled ranks of Kings men - players, subs and supporters alike - to leap for joy. The game and the league was theirs.
A celebratory mood erupted that then went on for the next seven hours, with more than a few casualties along the way. But hey, it’s not every day you win the league!