Staying In Shape On The 5:2 Diet
After a temperate first forty featuring just two tries, King’s take advantage of an increasingly jaded opposition to run in five in the second and secure all the available points.
In what was scheduled to be the Old Boys final home match of 2017-18, but courtesy of the weather was in fact the penultimate fixture, King’s welcomed Andover to SW London. This campaign has been a difficult one for the Hampshire side who despite starting relatively strongly with four wins from their first seven games, then struggled during the ‘middle third’ with only one victory from their next seven, and have recorded just two more results in their favour from the last six. As a consequence they travelled to Motspur Park knowing that it was all but imperative they returned down the M3 with something to show for their endeavour if they were to avoid the trapdoor to Level 8. Only two years ago they arrived in all but identical circumstances and that day they prevailed handsomely to preserve their L2SW status, so King’s were all too aware what the ‘All Blacks’ were capable of.
There were several changes to the starting XV from Farnham away a fortnight previous with injuries, holidays and other diary conflicts all taking their toll. Up front out went Sam Young, Rory Buckingham and James Radcliff and in their place came John Walton, Barry Williams and a first 1XV start for Robert Parker. Behind them Will Nelson returned at fly-half as Tom Dugarin dropped to full-back with Will Kibblewhite moving on to the left wing, and at centre Joseff Edwards replaced Guy Tyler. On the bench was the familiar figure of Jonny Kiddle, the lesser spotted (of late at least) Greig Blackie and for the first time this season a welcome inclusion for Exeter student George Taylor. Charged with governing the proceedings was Sheffield resident James Gray, on an exchange from Yorkshire Rugby, and presumably conscious of a train home to catch he kicked things off a minute early at 1459.
The first fifteen minutes don’t merit much by way of retelling, both teams cancelling one another out with neither try-line coming close to being threatened. The first action of note was a little bizarre as from a ruck in their own 22 Will Slater harried his opposite man and the ball was hacked into the visitors’ in-goal area from which it appeared they failed to escape before touching down. Not so said Mr Gray and awarded a scrum to Andover from which they won the first of several penalties, but from the ensuing lineout possession was pinched by King’s. After probing the defence both wide and narrow King’s were awarded a penalty of their own 5m out but declined the kick and instead captain Tom Dugarin put his faith in front five and elected to scrum. It proved to be a shrewd decision as following a clean strike the skipper took on the first phase ball himself at dummy half, bamboozling his opposite man to cross for the first score; 5-0.
In the period that followed King’s continued to press, more than once making gains on the blindside that Andover seemed strangely averse to defending. Having made good ground down the right, play was swung though almost all the threequarters’ hands before ending up with Will Kibblewhite who, with his first touch of the ball on 27mins, was too strong for his opposite man and doubled King’s lead; 10-0. Stung by this second score Andover rallied to the cause and made good headway eventually being awarded a scrum in the shadow of the home teams’ posts. With the first one listing and reeling erratically it was reset, before at the second King’s were perhaps rather fortuitously awarded a free-kick for reasons which may never be known. In the time remaining it was King’s who had the upper-hand, winning a number of penalties in Andover territory, Thomas Cobb and Robert Parker both coming close to the whitewash but the necessary composure went missing at each critical juncture. With the hosts still in the ascendancy Josh Dhillon nearly tip-toed his way over in the corner, halted only by what looked like a ‘seatbelt’ tackle, but no whistle was forthcoming and moments later it blew only to signal the interval.
It’s hard to know how Andover would have felt as they drew breath, possibly a little aggrieved not to have had at least a penalty and maybe more from their scrum exertions on the King’s line. Certainly with the margin as modest as it was they were still in the game, and might conceivably have been pondering how best to ensure King’s backs, who had both tries, could be best contained. For King’s of course the opposite was the case, whilst the forwards had held their own, today was not one for trying to out muscle their opponents, but rather how they might be out manoeuvred. As it transpired it took just six minutes of the half for King’s to extend their lead with a proper team try – a solid scrum set the platform for Joseff Edwards then Will Kibblewhite to make plentiful ground, before Tom Dugarin carried to within yards of the line, Joe Mason on hand to take the captain’s offload and record King’s third try, this one converted by Will Slater; 17-0.
Whilst down, Andover were by no means out and although a win was looking increasingly improbable, even a losing bonus point could yet prove valuable and the visitors continued to press. Alas for them whilst their heavy operators were very willing carriers, they were getting little change from the back-row of Barry Williams, Nicky Rawlinson and Robert Parker all of who enthusiastically rose to challenge of felling the big men. Rarely did the ball get beyond the first receiver as there appeared to be a lack of confidence to spread the play any wider, and consequently Will Nelson and Luke Minors were well capable of seeing to it that any threat never escalated beyond theoretical. With Andover apparently running out of ideas, and it must be said energy, it was no great surprise that the next score was against them as from another set piece inside the King’s half Tom Dugarin joined the line and arced his run wide before switching play back inside to Will Kibblewhite. Whilst the winger was eventually hauled down by three All Blacks, the ball was quickly recycled to Tom Dugarin (Andover’s MOM choice) who, on 58mins, bagged the King’s bonus point; 22-0.
This fourth try seemingly proved to be something of a dagger to the heart of Andover and whilst they contained King’s for a further ten minutes, eventually after three penalties all in the ‘red zone’ a yellow card was produced. As the recipient made his way from the field of play, Barry Williams took the opportunity to tap and go plunging over much to the dismay of the visitors; 27-0. Next it was to be Thomas Cobb who added to his already impressive tally, as simple phases were too much for a defence a man short; 32-0. With all the King’s subs now on the pitch, George Taylor caught the eye with a trademark jinking break and then a sublime back-of-hand flick to Greig Blackie who stormed 50m, backing himself for the line whilst team-mates queued upside for the pass that never came. It mattered not however, as when Andover conceded a penalty for killing the ball King’s went quickly and Will Kibblewhite was the recipient of a generous pass from Joseff Edwards to finish the scoring for the hosts; 37-0. With six minutes of injury time signalled, in the last of those Andover finally got over, a pass perhaps somewhat charitably determined to be ‘flat’ finding their right winger who ensured his team would not be beaten to nil.
Unfortunately for Andover, as had happened last time out against Twickenham, for the first hour they remained competitive but as minds and bodies tired they simply ran out of wherewithal to keep King’s at bay. It would seem that fortune has not smiled on them of late, but they go into the last weekend still with a chance to save themselves if they can beat Farnham, and they must hope Old Tonbridgians are unable to take a point at home to Twickenham. Who is to say how the permeations will turn out but we wish them well regardless, and it should be said that even a relegation is not a disaster, King’s having experienced two in three seasons not so long ago but coming back stronger for the experience.
From the perspective of the home side, it was a job well done, five points was what was required to keep the pressure on third place Twickenham, who King’s must play on the last league weekend, and to keep Farnham in fifth at bay as they too notched a good win away at now relegated Winchester. Before that last game lies the most difficult challenge of all, playing champions Camberley away at Watchetts where to date they have recorded 9 wins from 9, scored 509 points and leaked just 134, and needless to say achieved try bonus points in each of those victories. Rugby is all about meeting, and hopefully overcoming, challenges and King’s will travel with a positive mindset as both teams have something at stake – the hosts their unblemished record, and King’s will continue to strive for their highest league finish for over a decade. Both teams like to play the ball in wide channels so it could prove to be an ‘end-to-end’ game, and perhaps even a basketball score.
Tries: Tom Dugarin x 2, Will Kibblewhite x 2, Joe Mason, Barry Williams, Thomas Cobb
Conversions: Will Slater