Malvern centre Ben King kicked defending champions Worcestershire & Herefordshire into the final of the Iskitz Three Counties Championship with a hard-fought 15-9 victory over Greater Birmingham at Birmingham Exiles’ Elmdon ground this evening.
King landed five penalties with his last two kicks in the final three minutes of a try-less contest finally ending Greater Birmingham’s resistance.
Despite the absence of tries it proved an enthralling contest with Greater Birmingham’s lively backs causing problems for the defending champions before W&H used their pack to make inroads in the second half and create the pressure which allowed King to kick his penalties.
King struck his first after just three minutes but Greater Birmingham fly-half Ben Morgan (Sutton Coldfield) levelled with his first penalty after 15 minutes and then gave the hosts the lead with another just before half-time.
King scuffed a couple of kickable penalties either side of the break but regained his composure and pulled W&H level at 6-6 four minutes into the second half.
He nudged them back ahead but only briefly as Morgan, a constant threat in attack for Greater Birmingham, pulled them level again with his third penalty midway through the second half.
W&H threatened to break the try deadlock when a series of forward drives took them over the line seven minutes from time but the ball was held up and so they turned to King to reward their pressure with the winning penalties.
W&H now go forward to the final at Ledbury on May 20 where they will meet the winners of the final group match between Shropshire and Greater Birmingham at Telford Hornets on March 14.
The Iskitz Three Counties Championship is contested annually by the three Domestic Unions of the North Midlands and provides county representative rugby for players outside the National Leagues.
Iskitz, the Malvern-based international kit suppliers, are generously sponsoring the competition for a fourth season.
Greater Birmingham. 15 Tom Burrows (Sutton Coldfield), 14 Chris Duckworth (Sutton Coldfield), 13 Mike Ho (Old Satleians), 12 Joel James (Old Saltleians), 11 James Gordon (Old Saltleians); 10 Ben Morgan (Sutton Coldfield), 9 Adam Boot (Edwardians); 1 Peter Phipps (Old Saltleians), 2 James McQuoid (Edwardians), 3 Julius Hunt (Aston OE), 4 Dominic Woodcock (Old Satleians), 5 Adam Lee (Old Saltleians), 6 Gary Kykin (Manor Park), 7 Tom Lee (Old Saltleians), 8 Macaulay Hancox (Edwardians). Replacements: Liam Wallace (Woodrush), Peter Pilling (Warley), Brandon Lea (Camp Hill), Kai Lucas-Dumolo (Camp Hill), Morgan Hope (Edwardians), Tom Harris (Sutton Coldfield), Dan Lavander (Woodrush).
Worcestershire & Herefordshire. 15 Andy Holloway (Old Halesonians); 14 Ashley White (Pershore), 13 Ben King (Malvern), 12 Ross Attwood (Bredon Star), 11 Wilf Watson (Evesham); 10 George Bennion (Ledbury), 9 Chris Pinner (Kidderminster Carolians); 1 Will Allman (Bromyard), 2 Jamie Roberts (Evesham), 3 Matt Young (Old Halesonians), 4 Brian Ranns (Pershore), 5 Sam O’Brien (Droitwich), 6 Aron Middleton (Droitwich), 8 Jess Smith (Kidderminster Carolians). Replacements: Joey Roberts (Droitwich), Nico Mason (Droitwich), Freddie Morgan (Kidderminster Carolians), Dan Humpston (Evesham), Bryn Williams (Bromsgrove), Sam Gladwin (Redditch).