King's went down to a talented and well drilled Westcombe Park side in their debut fixture at Level 6, however despite the scoreline there were still positives to take from the game for King's.
After what felt like a long summer, King's finally made their debut in London 1 South against Westcombe Park. 2 good preseason games against Harrogate and Battersea Ironsides had provided the preparation for the men from Mostpur Park, although plans were somewhat disrupted with Old Colfeians pulling out of their final warm up game. Nonetheless, confidence was high going into the fixture. 16 of the 18 strong squad featured in last years promotion winning season, with just new recruits Leon Driscoll and Tom Ross making their debuts at 13 and from the bench respectively. Westcombe Park, on the other hand, have been on a high profile recruitment drive and having acquitted themselves well last year finishing mid table will surely be looking to the higher echelons of the league come April next year.
As the clock struck 3pm our whistle blower for the day, William Foster, signalled the start of the game. King's received the kick off but were soon turned over and almost immediately adjudged off side to leave fly half Matt Harrison the simple task of knocking over a penalty from in front of the posts 20m out; 0-3. The home side looked to kick their season into gear and went through phases in the opposition half, however Westcombe's defence held firm with King's trying to use the full width of the pitch. King's launched another attack from half way and with a a promising 4 on 2 beckoning, fly half Kristian Cook decided to kick ahead, a decision he lived to regret as he soon had to withdraw from the contest with a hamstring injury sustain from this moment! Will Slater entered the fray, shifting starting scrum half George Jones to 10. A further penalty to extend the score to 0-6 was further extended when the visitors's worked themselves a position just on the attacking 22m line. The line out throw, in the eyes of the home support but crucially not in the eye of the only man that actually matters, seemed off centre, but the blue and white shirts drove on. 3 phases later and the attack worked themselves some space, a long wide pass just out of reach of the on rushing defence bounced and sat up for Renford Bennett to do the simple task of dotting down from 5m out, conversion missed, 0-11 and now the next score was crucial.
King's came back firing, George Taylor set new man Driscoll free down the right who was tackled on the 22, the ball was quickly recycled before the rampaging Dan Staunton careered through the defence and with the line beckoning he was felled and somehow the defence scrambled to win the penalty at the ensuing breakdown. However, the kick to touch was missed and once again King's were on the attack. They were back 5m out from the try line, a few tight phases trying to batter the door down before trying to release the backs. The wide pass would have given King's a simple 2 on 1 to find their first score, however as it was released Harrison read it well, stepped out the line and grabbed it inches in front of Taylor before racing the length of the field for a killer blow. Having added the extras himself the score moved to 18-0. Both sides tried in vain to make a further impression on the scoreboard without luck until half time.
If King's were to have any real chance of winning the game they had to come out firing for the second half but it was not to be. A long clearance exploited an open backfield and forced the home side into a pressure line out in their own 22. The pressure told and before they knew it Harrison was adding another 3 points to the scoreboard and seeing the lead out to 21 points. The rest of the second half was to be a similar affair to the first with King's creating but ultimately not taking chances, whilst the men from Orpington clinically taking just about every chance they were afforded. Credit should also go to the away side's defence which held firm and scrambled well on the occasions when King's thought they had created openings.
One such chance came from deep with Staunton again breaking the line, offloading to his partner in the row Pete Januszewski who then fed Will Kibblewhite, who was a constant threat, however just as he thought he was free losing his balance. The attack wasn't finished there though with the ball quickly recycled, however just like the first half the defence forced a penalty at the breakdown just as King's thought they were working a workable position. It was the home side, however, that were closest to scoring next with a scrappy line out 5m out from the try line saw Jack Griffin go over the line, but deemed held up. Once again though, Westcombe Park held firm from the resulting scrum, turning the ball over soon after and clearing the danger.
As the game headed into the final 15 minutes, Westcombe Park took the ascendancy once again and went in search of the final 2 tries to get themselves the bonus point. A scrum in the home side's 22 saw a pick and go from the number 8 drive close to the line and inside centre Atiola scooped up the ball and darted over for the score, the conversion was missed leaving the score at 0-26. King's soon found themselves scrambling back to their line, as a kick ahead saw the Kent folk racing after in search of the all important 4th try, with the ball over the line and the try seeming inevitable the ball was knocked on. However, it wasn't far away. King's looked to force a miracle from their own line, but the offload was intercepted and flung wide to Lespierre who cruised over for the final score. Less than a minute later the ball was booted into touch and the game closed at 0-31.
Westcombe Park were deserved winners on the day and showed their credentials as one of the title favourites. For King's the jump in standard from what was faced last year was stark, however they will know that with some tweaks and a more ruthless edge they will compete at this level. A visit from local rivals London Cornish is what is in store next week as the squad look to bounce back from this disappointment with a victory. If King's think they will get an easy ride then they should think again with Cornish looking to bounce back themselves from an opening day home defeat to Havant, another team who will be expecting to finish high in the league.