And Finally, Monsieur, A Wafer-Thin Mint
Four first half tries prove to be little more than a selection of amushe-bouches, as in the second period King’s gorge themselves on eight more netting a further 54 points in a resounding win.
For a third successive week followers of the Old Boys were not required to trouble themselves with tapping postcodes into Google Maps or thumbing the pages of an AtoZ as once more a home game was served up for their pleasure. The visitors from the Surrey Hills were Effingham & Leatherhead – a mainstay of London 2SW currently in their 15th season at Level 7. Their campaign to date has been disappointing with just one losing BP to show for their efforts, but their record at King’s is very respectable with 4 wins from their last 6 visits. Having pushed Twickenham close seven days ago they may have hoped to catch their hosts cold or complacent.
For King’s as ever there were adjustments made to the squad of 18 right up to Saturday morning. Included in the starting line-up for the first time in 2018-19 were lock Pete Januszewski and scrum-half James Brooks whilst on the bench Ali Cooper was joined by Chris du Toit making his return to club colours after more than four years away. Referee Matt Constant was back at Motspur Park for the first time since the final day of last season when he issued 4 yellow cards to the home side. Hoping he had forgotten to pack them today King’s watched on as he ushered play underway at 1459.
Eagles started the game brightly and judging by the parry and riposte in the early exchanges both teams looked like they had come to play. Indeed it was the away side who had the first chance to score when a penalty was awarded in line with the posts, but an uncertain strike from the visitors’ young fly-half was sliced wide. Without delay King’s scurried to the other end and with 12mins gone it was James Radcliff (remember the name) who opened his account for the day, as did Gareth Stoppani with the conversion; 7-0. Stung into action, within 3 minutes it was Effingham’s turn to put a winger away as Joseph Triegaardt crossed wide on the left, leaving his kicker too much to do; 7-5.
Back came King’s with forwards and backs alike carrying well and asking questions of the defence. From a lineout in Eagles’ territory Pete Januszewski made his presence felt before the ball reached George Taylor whose break disrupted the shape of the opposition defence leaving Gareth Stoppani in space to score try number two, which he converted; 14-5. King’s were by now excerpting more control on proceedings and with Eagles on their own line the scrum-half’s box-kick fell to Harry Wakefield, quick hands from the three-quarters and it was George Taylor whose pass provided the assist for James Radcliff to make it a brace, Gareth Stoppani converting; 21-5.
Eagles were wobbling a little and when the restart bounced into touch, although King’s lost the lineout, Tom Cobb promptly stole the ball back, his break made good ground before Dan Staunton powered on. Once more play was swung wide and George Taylor was too elusive for the boys in green and yellow as he secured the try BP with Gareth Stoppani keeping his record intact; 28-5. There was still time in the half and the majority of that was spent with King’s defending as Eagles pressed, and they should have scored a second try of their own but for a costly fumble with an overlap going begging. So it was that the teams turned round with no further points for either.
Last week King’s had reached the same point 26-14 to the good but managed just 3pts more in the second forty. Whilst on the face of it things appeared relatively comfortable, the message was that King’s needed to press home the advantage and not let their opposition back into contention. In fairness to the team it seemed they had listened as with just 4mins played Gareth Stoppani added another 7pts to his tally; 35-5. Once more Eagles were to match the exploits of their hosts as No.11 Triegaardt stepped then sprinted his way clear, this time going under the posts from where the extras couldn’t be missed; 35-12.
Alas for Eagles this was to be as good as it got as the reaction it provoked from King’s was immediate and the ensuing ten minutes brutal. It was another box-kick which started the rot, Luke Minors taking the line-out quickly, Ed Forshaw carried the ball in determined fashion before his pass saw James Radcliff home for number three, Gareth Stoppani took the lead out to 30pts; 42-12. Next the pack won a scrum penalty, not their only one of the day it should be noted, and the quick tap from George Jones set George Taylor free for his second, with a seventh successful Gareth Stoppani conversion; 49-12. Finally, after the backs had hogged the limelight for so long it was Pete Januszewski who went under the posts, following another telling Ed Forshaw break; 56-12. Not done King’s surged forward again and when a tired Eagles’ defender slapped a ball down out of the tackle a yellow card inevitably followed. A man light Gareth Stoppani made use of the extra space, his pass finding James Radcliff who finished powerfully after a mazy run; 63-12.
Eagles must have wondered what they had done to deserve such a volley of shots, but they were the ones who scored next. A rare incursion into the King’s 22 elicited a penalty which was tapped and after a couple of narrow phases they were across the whitewash and a try BP appeared, perhaps, within grasp; 63-19. As it transpired that hope remained unfulfilled as it was King’s who closed out the try tally, with George Taylor once more causing no end of problems in midfield, his pass to Gareth Stoppani who completed his hat-trick and finished with a perfect 10/10 conversions in his last contribution for the day; 70-19. Into the last seven minutes and twice more James Radcliff was the man in the right place at the right time, as he recorded an astonishing double hat-trick, George Jones converting the flanker come winger’s sixth try; 82-19. The referee eked out every last second to give Eagles a shot at taking home something for the road, but it was not to be and eventually King’s kicked dead to end an extraordinary game.
Today marked King’s biggest league in for over 4yrs, the last such margin coming on the final weekend of 2013-14 when a depleted Old Wellingtonians were overwhelmed 92-7. These days don’t come around often and should be enjoyed of course but King’s have been on the receiving end of similar scorelines in the not so distant past and know what a chastening experience it can be. Eagles were gracious and magnanimous in defeat and stuck around long enough to award James Radcliff their MOM whilst Ed Forshaw picked out Joseph Triegaardt. The season is young, as is their side, and surely there are better days ahead for them.
After the comforts of KT3 have now been enjoyed for the best part of a month King’s must make their longest away trip of the season to Gosport & Fareham. Gos have won just once this season, in their only home game when they toppled Farnham, but put 22pts on Twickenham at the weekend and will doubtless be keen for another scalp. Last season the wind and rain blew hard at Dolphin Crescent and King’s may well need to be prepared to dig deep if they are to leave with any points to show for their endeavour. If they can maintain anything like the form shown to this point then the hope must be that, although not easy by any stretch, it should not be beyond them.
Tries: James Radcliff x 6, Gareth Stoppani x 3, George Taylor x 2, Pete Januszewski,
Conversions: Gareth Stoppani x 10, George Jones