By Liam Moakes Tuesday 09 October 2012 Updated: 10/10 18:58
KINGS NORTON overcame a blistering start from visitors Cheltenham North to secure a 19-14 victory in Midlands Three West (South) on Saturday.
It was a fine effort by a much-changed Kings side who began the match in a disorganised fashion yet recovered to seal a third win in four league matches and ensure the Gloucestershire side's first visit to Hopwood Park ended in defeat.
The visitors produced a devastating opening 12 minutes of impressively controlled rugby during which they scored two excellent converted tries through their talented centres and threatened to overrun their hosts.
However, after this initial setback Kings gradually hauled themselves into the game with Tom Hatfield and Chris Hands much to the fore in leading the fightback.
After 16 minutes Hatfield broke away on one of his charges from the halfway line, only to be stopped just short of the line, but Kings won the resulting penalty from which the ball was sent wide along the backs by Louis Stelling to the waiting Chris Carlin whose speed and side-step took him through the visitors' defence for an unconverted score.
This reduced the deficit to 14-5 and Kings now began to function more as a unit and, when captain Gareth Westwater switched himself back to full back and brought veteran Dai Thomas to scrum half, the balance between both sides became more equal.
As they became more ragged, Cheltenham changed their game plan and tried to keep ball close to their pack but, once they went down to 14 men due to a sin-binning, Kings took full advantage and scored a great try through Jack Fairhurst which Carlin converted to close the gap to just two points.
Kings opened the second period on the attack and were soon awarded a kickable penalty which was strangely declined as it would have given them the lead.
Instead they went for the scrum option which came to nothing and the visitors then powered forward to put Kings under a tremendous period of pressure, during which Ed Jones was sin-binned and the worse was feared by the home supporters as they went down to 14 men.
However, Norton's defence stood firm and the entire pack - driven on by Mark Waudby - dogged it out for a further five minutes of desperate defence which also included one great try-saving tackle on the visitors' outside centre by skipper Westwater.
Finally Carlin cleared the lines with a long clearance to touch before the final 20 minutes saw the Kings 15 put in a massive defensive effort to hold their visitors from scoring as No 8 Ben Boyce - supported by Phil Stock - constantly broke away to foil any efforts by Cheltenham's back row.
As the clock ticked down Kings won the ball from a scrum just inside Cheltenham's half and Dai Davis swiftly fed fly half Stelling and his long pass to Carlin gave a tight opening for him to speed away and cleverly draw his man before releasing the dangerous Fairhust on the burst who made no mistake in scoring his second and the winning try.
Carlin duly added the extras to put the seal on a very rewarding victory.
Kings have received a bye into the third round of the North Midlands Shield after tomorrow's scheduled second round visitors Lordswood Dixonians withdrew from the competition.
At the time of going to press Kings were deciding whether or not to enter the fixture pool this weekend.
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