Kings Norton 10 Claverdon 13
Midlands Four West (South)
CLAVERDON maintained the pressure on top two Rugby Lions and Evesham as they secured an excellent and hard fought victory at Kings Norton on Saturday, writes James Williams.
This meeting between the fourth placed hosts and third placed visitors was always likely to be a tight encounter and what followed was not only brutal but also a great credit to what these boys can do on the pitch.
Kings Norton have proved a strong unit this year, holding Rugby Lions to just a 10-0 victory and producing other impressive performances, but Lions’ captain James Williams was confident his boys could topple their opposition.
The first play set the tone for the rest of the 80 minutes. Claverdon kicked off and Kings’ number eight caught, gathered momentum and crashed through two tackles before finally being halted by three Claverdon players.
There was strong runner after strong runner in both directions, halted by even stronger defence on both sides.
Territory was order of the day early on, with lots of ball being kicked back and forth and neither side able to gather any kind of momentum.
Claverdon were offered two early penalties which Doz Ward comfortably slotted over to put them 6-0 up and they thought they had scored the first try of the game when Conor Smith’s quick-thinking saw him dive over the line from a tap penalty, only for the referee to give a scrum to Kings for a knock-on.
Kings came back strongly and with the searing pace of their wingers were causing real problems for the Claverdon outfit. An overlap on the right saw the hosts score their first try, as their winger and man of the match Ben Manners ran around the Claverdon back line and covering defence to score in the corner.
A few moments later Claverdon became their own worst enemy. Quick hands in the midfield – too quick for their own team – meant a misplaced pass landed in the same winger’s hands and again he sped around the covering defence and into the corner.
James Barton was sin-binned following an altercation with the scorer and mystery still surrounds the reason why.
At 10-6 up Kings started to exert some pressure, but all credit must be given to Claverdon who, with 14 men, defended resolutely. Seru Rokotuiloma and Williams made some crucial tackles, while Tom Johnson and Tim Westmacott ran the ball back with intent whenever it was kicked.
The second half was a much tighter affair as neither side had many opportunities. Kings missed a couple of penalties to extend their lead, but Claverdon scored the decisive try when Rokotuiloma crashed over from close range.
This followed some strong lineout work by the Claverdon pack, which has improved week on week this season.
The sheer ferocity of the Kings’ forwards was taking its toll on weary Claverdon players but an interesting choice by the home captain saw him kick for the corner from a very kickable penalty with only a few minutes remaining.
This was a very brave call as many captains, including by his own admission the Lions’ Williams, would have taken the three points and draw.
The resulting lineout was won by Kings but man of the match Charlie Byrd came up with the crucial turnover, allowing Claverdon to clear their lines.
This was a true contest played in the right spirit with a few beers sunk in the bar afterwards by players from both sides.
Special mention goes to Byrd and Tristan Hird yet again for their tireless work all over the pitch and to Johnson who will miss the next few games with a broken nose.
Claverdon now prepare for another interesting match on Saturday when they host improving Redditch, who are now fifth.