Bring Me Sunshine
In front of a large crowd of home supporters King’s record their first home win in 2017 and entertain with five tries to secure a bonus point for good measure.
As sides reach the ‘business end’ of the season history has shown that nothing is a given and perverse results have already been recorded in recent weeks and will continue to be until the curtain comes down on 8th April. A heavily depleted King’s were on the receiving end of a ferocious Camberley backlash two weeks ago and to avoid seeing their campaign peter out the Old Boys needed to find a performance to expunge their last result from the memory. Their visitors today, placed just one spot below in the table, find themselves in the midst of a fight for their London 2SW survival. With Effingham (3 wins in 4) and Andover (2 in 4) both having found form, despite having overcome both in January Pompey have since fallen away with only one victory in five and have the ‘Eagles’ and ‘All Blacks’ hot on their heels. Both today’s teams needed a win.
There were six survivors from seven days ago, although unlike then all the forwards started in, or very close to, their preferred position. Ryan Getley was able to return to the front row as was Jonny Kiddle, Sam Young was back in at lock, Duncan Bucknell, James Radcliff and Harry Wakefield made up an all new back-row combination. In the backline James Sharpe, appearing for the first time since January, and Kristian Cook were the half-backs, outside them captain Tom Dugarin with another fly-half in Ben Woollams at 13 and three more centres occupying the back three roles, Luke Minors and Calum Williams on the wings and George Taylor at full-back. On the bench King’s were buoyed by the return from injury of Will Slater alongside Guy TYLER and Brett Williams. At 3pm exactly it was game on.
The opening ten minutes didn’t elicit much by way of action but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Both teams were showing ambition, albeit the visitors in somewhat narrower channels than their hosts, but the scoreboard was not threatened. With thirteen minutes gone though Daniel Staunton disrupted a Pompey lineout throw inside the home 22 and some adventurous if somewhat untidy play saw King’s into the visitor’s half. One carefully flighted Kristian Cook mis-pass later and Harry Wakefield found himself running at the outside shoulder of the Pompey 13 and having rounded the defender offloaded to Luke Minors who still had plenty of ground to cover, but did so with aplomb. Tom Dugarin added a well struck conversion; 7-0.
Although ahead on the scoreboard King’s might have guessed things would not be straightforward not least when the large Pompey forwards, already apparently feeling the pace, were shunted back at the scrum the home front row were instantly penalised for the first of five near identical alleged infringements. Reverting to type King’s decided to put some width on proceedings and when Ben Woollams received the ball on halfway he saw a gap he attacked the line at pace and eschewing the two men outside him instead confidently dummied the full-back to finish under the posts with Tom Dugarin doing the rest; 14-0.
With still almost twenty minutes remaining in the half Pompey took the initiative and began to impose their style on proceedings gaining territory through no little graft and a steady trickle of penalties (two from retreating scrums). As with the first home game of the season, against Old Tonbridgians, the determination King’s exhibited during this period was in many ways just as, or more, impressive as the flair on show for the tries and whilst Pompey crashed like stormy waves on the sea wall, King’s refused to yield and at the interval the score was unchanged.
The last three meeting between these sides have ended 24-24, 37-20 and 25-27 so onlookers would have had every reason to expect there would be more points scored when Portsmouth returned from the sanctuary of the away dressing room. King’s had lead against both Twickenham and Winchester at half-time in recent weeks before contriving to lose both so certainly the game was far from a done deal. Perhaps George Taylor was conscious of this as with just three minutes he picked up the ball from a loose clearance kick and from 55m out set about beguiling what seemed like not less than half the Pompey defence, eventually crossing to score a fabulous individual score which was arguably a candidate for try of season; 19-0.
Not wishing to see the backs grab all the headlines from the restart the ebullient Sam Young immediately carried the ball for fully 30m, the attack only undone by a forward pass. From, yet another, scrum penalty Pompey launched what was, as it transpired, to be their only successful attack as they forced a way over following consecutive close-quarter forays; 19-5. At this stage Guy TYLER joined proceedings in the back-row and his dynamism started to pose immediate problems for Pompey as he powered King’s on. If anything the home side lost a little shape during this period since as the game opened up laudable ambition was not always matched by precise execution. As the game yo-yoed either side of half-way neither team was able to impose themselves on the other although Pompey were given a foot-up by the whistler as he reduced King’s to 14 sending Duncan Bucknell to the sin-bin for a technical offence.
With regular time now up it looked like King’s might once again be frustrated in their quest for a try BP (excluding games v’s Warlingham only two have been forthcoming) but right on cue King’s answered the call. Guy TYLER was the initial line-breaker getting King’s out of their half and into the visitors before Tom Dugarin took the ball on, a couple more short passes and King’s were in full flight and it was left to Harry Wakefield to supply another assist and he put Ben Woollams in for his second and King’s fourth try; 24-5. At this stage the game was up for Pompey as a contest, just as the scrums were when with tighthead Brett Williams having come on was forced off for an HIA and soon after the man he replaced who had been forced to return, Ryan Getley, was another recipient of a yellow. Deep into injury time, having created one try Kristian Cook grabbed one of his own, a wicked step in the shadow of the posts too good for his tired opposite man. Tom Dugarin couldn’t miss and didn’t; 31-5.
These are worrying times for Pompey, since as they graciously conceded they were well beaten today and more troubling there did not seem to be a Plan B when Plan A, to outmuscle King’s, failed. King’s must play Andover next and then Effingham on the final day; Old Reigatian will play Portsmouth and then Andover. It seems the Old Boys XVs will have a large say in which town side extends their stay in L2SW into 2017-18. Pompey have been good company off the pitch and tough opponents on it this season and last and we wish them well in their battle – their last home game next week is likely to be crucial as they must visit the dangerous Camberley on the final day.
King’s will recall that when Andover were threatened with the trap-door to L3SW last year they came to Motspur Park and won handsomely. They have made no secret of their desire to repeat the trick at home this year and King’s really will have to play well if they want to secure a final position higher than 8th where they have been marooned for six weeks. With the sun on their backs today those gathered saw the attractive rugby King’s pacy and visionary three-quarters are capable of when playing behind a dogged and determined pack and it must be hoped that the performance witnessed can more often become the rule and not the exception.
Tries: Minors, Woollams x 2, Taylor, Cook,
Cons: Dugarin x 3