Birmingham Exiles 17 Kings Norton 16
Midlands Five West (South)
KINGS missed a last-gasp penalty as they slipped to an agonising defeat in their league opener on Saturday.
This was always likely to be a close contest between relegated Kings and an Exiles side who narrowly missed out on promotion last season and so it proved.
A high, hanging kick-off from Kings got the game started and immediately put the hosts under pressure. Kings’ reward was a simple penalty in front of the posts, which fly half Paul Crocker duly converted with barely three minutes on the clock.
The restart from Exiles saw them get both possession and field position, from which they began a series of tight drives which continued to make hard yards.
Exiles found their game plan – a solid driving maul, attacking around the fringes, before going wide. Their outside men hit the gas and made it through the Kings’ defence for a converted try to lead 7-3.
However, the score stung Kings into action and another hanging kick-off coupled with forward pressure meant Kings got possession and worked their way into Exiles territory.
Flanker Chris Minot went agonisingly close and his back row partner Sam Back was on hand to complete the move for Kings’ opening try. The conversion went wide, but Kings were back in front at 8-7.
Just as Kings thought this gave them the platform to build on, Exiles stepped up a gear, leading to two tries for the hosts in rapid succession just before half time.
Fortunately for Kings, neither try was converted, but they still trailed 17-8.
Kings came out of the blocks snarling for the second half and were straight on the offensive. A searing attack down the left flank took Kings into the opposition 22 and Exiles conceded a penalty which was converted into three points.
For 20 minutes, neither side was giving an inch. With the wind to their backs, Kings made full use of their suite of kicking options to keep Exiles pegged back in their half.
Hard running saw Kings pile on the pressure on the opposition five-yard line and finally the ball came out to the backs and it was Mike Smaylen who skipped around the last man and went over for a deserved try.
Crucially, the conversion went wide, and Kings remained in arrears, albeit by just one point.
With only a few minutes on the clock, Exiles were conceding penalties and a series of quick taps took Kings up to the Exiles’ 10m line, where again a penalty was conceded.
With no time on the clock, Kings opted for the shot at goal, but what would have been a winning penalty ended up ghosting just wide of the left post.
Kings, who picked up a bonus point, were sanguine in defeat, knowing Exiles had been tested to the max, and for their own part, the Kings men know there is still more to come from this squad.
On Saturday Kings Norton travel to Stourbridge Lions.