Cambo Have Got Five On It
A day which had it all, seven tries and plenty of big collisions on the pitch, all played out under alternating sunshine, monsoon rain and thunder off it.
King’s embarked on their 2017-18 London 2SW league campaign with a tough assignment welcoming visitors Camberley, the side who finished runners-up last time out and who only missed out on promotion to London 1S by virtue of a narrow defeat at the hands of Old Colfeians. With aspirations to recapture their National League glory days of yesteryear the Surrey side have enjoyed a successful pre-season and presumably came into the game with confidence high. That said, they would have recalled that their last visit to Motspur Park ended in an 8-3 defeat, one of only two losses they suffered on the road in 2016-17, but with Summer only just behind us and good conditions underfoot another low scoring affair, whilst not impossible, felt improbable.
The King’s side had a largely familiar look to it with just one debutant amongst the match day 18 in lock Peter Januszewski who was joined on the bench by Ryan Getley and Max Morgan. In the starting XV, there was a welcome return to King’s colours for full-back Gareth Stoppani after his 18mth sabbatical in the uncharted and wild lands that lie north of the Thames. Up front Robert Clarke, who last season appeared variously at flanker, wing and centre decided he would try his hand at locking, and packed down alongside Rory Buckingham. With Club Captain Tom Dugarin absent through injury, the King Prawns co-captain Will Slater fresh from a successful 7s season skippered the team from scrum-half.
Here things will become a little hazy as your correspondent didn’t see the first half and had only one eye on the second, so think of this less of a report and more a synopsis of, more or less, what happened……
Camberley started fast and direct, this opening salvo setting the tone for the match, and it was they who scored first from a penalty kick; 0-3. Soon after sustained pressure led to a try from short range for their hooker, the conversation going astray; 0-8. With King’s reduced to 14, the same player repeated the trick not much later, this time the kick was good; 0-15. With appropriate hospitality having been offered to their guests, in the second quarter King’s set about playing some rugby having been starved of the ball for much of the first, Gareth Stoppani opening his account from the tee; 3-15. Camberley were at last forced to defend and in the process lost two men to the bin at different times, eventually the numerical advantage told as Kristian Cook created a gap, his pass releasing Luke Minors to score, Max Morgan adding the two more with Gareth Stoppani suffering the effects of blow to the calf; 10-15. There was no change at the turn-around.
Whilst Camberley has undeniably had the balance of possession and territory in the first half, King’s resilience had seen to it that it remained a one-score-game. Perhaps feeling aggrieved not to be further ahead, the visitors again came out the blocks quickly and before long their lively left wing was across the whitewash; 10-22. The last thing King’s could afford to do was to concede again, but alas that was exactly what happened as some brisk handling saw the same man given too much space and with that Camberley were almost out of sight; 10-29. At this point the heavens well and truly opened as tropical rain was blown in sending spectators fleeing to find cover whilst the teams tried manfully in increasingly testing conditions. Certainly the elements did nothing to dull Will Slater’s eye for a gap as he left the visitors’ defence flat-footed with a darting break which saw him crossing under the posts, Kristian Cook improving the score; 17-29.
Things didn’t get any better for the hosts though as after an error-strewn passage of play from both sides, not helped by slippery conditions and a greasy ball, King’s lost another to the bin and in due course Camberley were awarded a penalty which, with the try bonus point already achieved, they pragmatically elected to kick; 17-32. As the game wound down the action ebbed and flowed, and in the last play having turned Camberley over King’s tried to run from their own 22, but when the visitors repeated the trick 30m out their full-back (and MOM) was left with a simple canter under the posts; 17-39.
Overall the best team won on the day, outscoring King’s 5 tries to 2 and in so doing collecting all five points on offer to sit atop the league after the first round of fixtures. If Camberley continue to gather momentum this season as they did last then they will become an increasingly tough nut to crack. Despite the four yellow cards (all technical, and arguably not entirely necessary) the game was played in good spirits and both sides did well in spite of the inclement weather. Camberley brought with them a large and convivial support, and with the playing and organisational infrastructure they have in place, must surely be ambitious to achieve the promotion they were denied at the last back in April. King’s will have to wait until the final league weekend until they see Camberley again when presumably much, if not all, may well have been decided in that respect.
In a busy opening schedule there is little time to dwell on any lingering disappointment as Old Tonbridgians come calling a day early on Friday at 7.45pm in possibly the first King’s Rugby league game to be played at night. OTs enjoyed a successful debut at Level 7 last season finishing third in L2SW, and honours were even with each team winning and losing one. Hopefully a good game lies in store under the Friday night lights.
Tries: Minors, Slater
Conversions: Morgan, Cook