A slighter shorter report (maybe more of these in future…….) because it’s Friday now and memories have been clouded by the passing of time, but most of the important bits appear below.
Once more King’s were breaking new ground on their visit to North London as they faced Belsize Park for the first time at least in the modern era. Belsize are an exiles club with their training facilities in Bloomsbury but who play their home games in Regent’s Park a mere stone’s throw from London Zoo. Having been promoted as champions of London 2NW they were level transferred into the South and have acquitted themselves with aplomb having won half their ten games including eye-catching victory away at Camberley. Putting out an astonishing six men’s teams each Saturday BP are certainly not short of players and King’s knew full well that whichever combination was selected would be a good one.
There were changes across the side from recent weeks as injuries and unavailability bit in certain positions as it is want to do. Up front Jonny Kiddle manfully stepped up to fill in at hooker whilst behind him Pete Januszewski returned after seven weeks out and Harry Wakefield started his first 1XV game of the season at openside. George Jones and Kristian Cook started at 9 and 10 respectively, just the second time this season King’s have managed the same half-back combination in successive games. At outside centre Leon Driscoll was back for his first 1XV match since September. Jerry Avenell was the man with the whistle and at 2pm he got the proceedings under way.
Things started inauspiciously for the visitors as they were adjudged offside at the kick-off and trudged back for a scrum. The next four minutes were nothing short of disastrous from a King’s point of view. First fly-half Will Stride made a clinical break and before feeding inside centre Euan Miller to stroll in under the posts; 7-0. From the re-start King’s were pinged for a high tackle, BP kicking the penalty dead. At the resulting scrum BP managed a turnover and broke wide, King’s conceding another penalty which was tapped and the hosts plunged over to double their lead; 14-0.
After this whirlwind start things looked ominous but King’s didn’t panic and had much the better of the resulting ten minutes with Leon Driscoll carrying hard and the penalties now flowing in favour of the away side. In the end it was a strong run from Brodie Wilson which did the damage as he broke four tackles en route to the line for a try improved by Gareth Stoppani; 14-7. King’s continued to dominate and should have extended their advantage but the last pass continued to elude friendly hands and ultimately that frustration was compounded when Liam Marshall picked the ball up in midfield 30+ metres out the threat seemed low but the powerful centre had other ideas as he smashed his way through to dot down; 21-7.
There remained 13mins or so in the half and both sides had their moments. BP’s pack were making hay against King’s makeshift front row and they were also a nuisance at the lineout meaning the visitors’ threequarters were struggling for clean ball for which credit must go to the hosts. Ultimately little of consequence occurred until in the last play the referee’s arm went up for an offside penalty and the home side took an easy three in front to extend their advantage.
Overall the first forty had been a mixed bag from the old boys, through the middle twenty they were causing plenty of problems but having boxed BP to the ropes continued to miss with the heavy punches. BP had built a solid platform both in terms of their physical performance and on the scoreboard and it was going to take something special to alter the course of the game significantly. The bench was emptied at the interval as Funmi Oduniyi, Matt Anthony and Charlie Williams joined in place of Brett Williams, Cal Barrett and Chris du Toit respectively. Alas for King’s things quickly went from bad to worse as within 7mins of the restart BP had scored again from a driven lineout and with that the bookies would surely have suspended betting on the outcome; 31-7.
With little choice but to dust themselves down and go again King’s did just that and having battered the home side’s line penalties began to flow steadily. Whether the referee was thinking of a card who knows, but that decision became academic as Brodie Wilson once more crossed with the extras on target; 31-14. For the next twenty minutes the score remained unchanged as the teams traded territory and possession, Funmi Oduniyi coming closest as he was pinged for not releasing the ball in the tackle when he felt he wasn’t held. Still, for all King’s perspiration and endeavour they were the next to be standing under their posts when BP squeezed over in the corner; 36-14.
With only 12mins or thereabouts remaining it was time to go double or quits for King’s as they pushed to salvage something from the match, consequently there was some scruffy play with the ball flying to all corners of the pitch at some improbable angles as ambitious mis-passes and the like met with varying degrees of success. Still, in time one stuck as the impressive James Houstoun (King’s MOM), by now playing 13, made a break and released Charlie Williams. A snap drop-goal conversion closed the gap further; 36-21. Had it been RWC19 then the gong would definitely have sounded by the time King’s finally got their reward, George Taylor hitting an incisive line before feeding James Houstoun for a bonus point try at the death; 36-26.
Forgetting the first 4mins King’s won the match 22-26, but unfortunately sport doesn’t work like that. Belsize Park were good value for their win scoring five tries and showing they plainly belong at this level. They were good hosts off back at the White Mustache which serves as their clubhouse and we will look forward to seeing them again in the Spring.
King’s will take some solace from another point added to their tally and results elsewhere meant no loss of standing in the table. After a week to rest up and lick any wounds the next opposition comes from Horsham on 7th December. The Sussex side won the L2SE v L2SW play-off last season and with five wins they sit a place about King’s in 8th. It will be the last home game of 2019 for King’s 1XV so please do get down and back the boys as they look to sign off the calendar year with a win.