Alcester 29 Kings Norton 9
Midlands Four West (South)
ALCESTER clinched a vital win over their injury-hit opponents at Kings Coughton to boost their survival hopes, whilst leaving Kings with work still to do as they too bid to escape the drop.
Both sides were helped by other results on the day and Alcester are now up to seventh and eight points above the bottom two, whilst Kings are a place and three points behind Alcester, although they have two games in hand on their conquerors.
Playing down the slope in the first half and with the wind in their favour, Alcester claimed the early ascendancy with a good level of intensity to their play and inside the first ten minutes they went in front.
Scrum half Robbie Parker got close to the line with a trademark jinking run before being hauled down just short, although he popped the ball up to lock Louis Smith in support who crashed over for the first try.
This was Smith’s first telling contribution in an all-round excellent performance for his side in both loose and tight play.
The hosts doubled their lead midway through the first half and Smith was once again prominent in the forwards’ drive downfield before man of the match tight head prop George Green took over and found his brother Josh O’Connor, who raced in from just inside the 22m line.
This was a debut score for Alcester’s latest teenager to make the move up from junior rugby and the fly half gave an assured performance throughout, to the extent you would have thought he had already played first XV rugby for years. Sam Smith converted the try.
Kings slowly battled their way back into the game and frustrated all of Alcester’s efforts to press home their first half territorial advantage as visiting captain Shane Rees took advantage of the two penalty opportunities that his forwards had created with strong counter-attacks to leave the score at 12-6 at half time.
With the elements at their back in the second half, the visitors, who had turned up with just the bare 15 players and without replacements, took the game to the Kings Coughton men.
However, unlike Kings’ victorious meeting between the sides in November, their pack was unable to dominate the home eight. They did enjoy the better of the territory in the opening exchanges of the half, however, and a further successful penalty from Rees made it 12-9.
Buoyed by being within touching distance on the scoreboard, the visitors enjoyed their best period of the game in the next ten minutes and laid siege to the Alcester line.
They were awarded a series of short range scrums, some of which were from penalties they elected to take the scrum from, but their attempts to drive the home pack over the line, pick up and go from number eight and send the ball wide were all met with the most determined and resolute defence.
Twice in this spell it looked like Kings would get over the line, but they were held up just short by excellent defence and, after a nervy period, Alcester were eventually able to clear their lines following a knock-on from a visiting player and the home side survived what turned out to be a defining spell in this game and possibly in their season overall.
With play back up in the visitors’ territory for the first time in a quarter of an hour, Alcester skipper Jack Green crashed through from his centre position to score his side’s third try, before he doubled his tally and secured the try bonus point for his side with another powerful run. Ben Hope converted Green’s first try.
The visitors’ heads had dropped by now and the home side threatened to run away with the game, but Alcester hooker Tom Harris was called back by the referee just as he was on his way to the line unchallenged, following a forward pass earlier in the move.
Wing Jamie Clarke did make the game safe with an excellent individual try when he caught a Kings Norton clearance before jinking past three would-be tacklers and powering over the line despite the attention of two other defenders.
Alcester now have a break from league action and are likely to field a combined 1st/2nd XV side against still to be confirmed opponents on Saturday. This will give some of their walking wounded a much-needed chance to rest ahead of the resumption of league fixtures and the trip to league leaders and champions-elect Manor Park in Nuneaton on March 5.
On Wednesday (February 24) Kings were due to host Rugeley in the third round of the Midlands Junior Vase, from which the winners will host promotion hopefuls Upton-on-Severn in the quarter-finals on Saturday.