Look At What You Could Have Won
Ahead 18-5 at the break, King’s contrived to let their advantage slip losing the second forty 0-14 and with it the match.
For King’s one and only home game in February the visitors were Winchester, two places and two points above their hosts in the league. Back in October the town side gave King’s a lesson in ruthlessness winning 32-10 in Hampshire. Since then both sides have enjoyed mixed success and coming into the clash it would be a sage observer who would say with confidence how the L2SW table will look come tea-time on 8th April, just 14 points separating 2nd to 8th, each team having won no more than 10 games and no less than 9. Certainly though King’s were keen to make good for their away defeat, and Winchester were no less determined to ensure they did not go home empty handed.
This time of year notoriously causes headaches for coaches and captains as injuries, holidays and unavailability form an unholy trinity and Saturday was no exception with several ‘frontline’ players away or otherwise engaged. Of the 15 who took the pitch at North Walls Park, only four reappeared today and just two in the same position with several including Rory Buckingham and captain Tom Dugarin required to make do and mend out of position. There was, of course, a new lock pairing, King’s tenth different combination in seventeen games. With longer days gradually upon us, at 1430 the man in green ushered play underway.
It was first blood to King’s for a change as with just 3mins on the clock Tom Dugarin was given a penalty chance with a kick and he duly obliged; 3-0. Not five minutes later and he repeated the trick to double the hosts’ lead; 6-0. Winchester were struggling to get a foothold in the game and it came as little surprise when King’s struck again, this time going one better as the skipper was on the spot to collect the ball and cross for a try to swell his personal tally, although regrettably it went unconverted; 11-0.
At this stage things were all looking rather comfortable for King’s and it was as if they realised it and decided it was time to complicate matters. James Radcliff was the first to rock the boat, a yellow card his reward for an unsubtle attempt to disrupt the visiting scrum-half at the back of a ruck. Winchester’s attempts to kick in the first period had been at best haphazard and so with their numerical advantage they instead elected to keep the ball in hand, and it worked as their right wing found the space he needed to slide over out wide; 11-5. With half-time looming, and still a man down, King’s regathered their composure and after some patient phase play Rob Clarke marauded down the left flank to cross for a score that this time was improved; 18-5.
As King’s retreated to the changing rooms home supporters would have been forgiven for feeling quite chipper. Winchester, by their own subsequent admission, had offered little in the first forty bar a solid scrum and some capable fringe incursions. That said, King’s would – or certainly should – have known that Winchester are nobody’s fools and there was surely better to come. Fatefully, from a King’s point of view, the men in black wasted no time in reminding all gathered of just this as with the first play of the half their left wing shook off an ineffective tackle and a couple of crisp passes later the visitors had their second try; 18-12. King’s had a chance to respond within moments racing down the pitch and creating an overlap on the right, but alas the pass was delayed a moment overlong and with it the scramble defence was able to extinguish the danger as Harrison David was snared.
In the thirty minutes that followed the game took on a curious but familiar pattern. King’s were winning their fair share or more of ball both in the loose and from the lineout, where Rory Buckingham and David Lawson were excellent, but on each occasion the threat of a further score was only ever that. King’s were often their own worst enemies although Winchester had a canny knack of pinching ruck ball and swimming though mauls with remarkable success. With the bench emptied and King’s heads being scratched from 1 to 15 the visitors sensed their moment was now. After gaining crucial ground they found themselves first with a 5m scrum and soon after were pounding the King’s line with countless pick-and-go drives. It was left to their talismanic No.8 (and MOM) to bulldoze the last 3ft straight into the post where the referee was on hand and raised his arm; 18-19.
The referee pronounced there remained 13mins to play, ample time for the pendulum to swing once more. Guy TYLER (King’s MOM) tried as hard as any pinballing his way into the visitors’ 22 only to be scuppered as his attempted offload was spilled forward. Still chances came, Rory Jones missing a drop-goal by less than a foot and when King’s returned the resulting 22 drop-out this time they were awarded a penalty. With usual kicker Tom Dugarin off the pitch it was left to Rory Jones to chance his boot, but it was not to be and as the ball nestled in the stream King’s chances of winning floated down the river.
To the victor belong the spoils and praise as ever must go to Winchester who changed their approach in the second forty, played to their strengths using their go-to ball carriers effectively and refused to be beaten. We shall look forward to seeing them again in 2017-18. For King’s this game will surely go down as one that got away, ten times King’s got into the away 22 not once were they turned over but five times knocked the ball on. Sport is all about taking your chances and today King’s were not able to and Winchester made them pay, a losing bonus point scant consolation on the day.
Having recorded won 8 and lost 3 in the ‘out’ leg of this season, since then the record stands at 1 win, 1 draw and 4 losses; King’s will need to recalibrate as a matter of priority if they are to get back to winning ways. In a fortnight’s time Old Reigatian will visit Motspur Park, OR beat Warlingham 82-0 and will doubtless be full of confidence so King’s must be prepared.
Tries: Dugarin, Clarke
Pens: Dugarin x 2