The King’s 1st XV put in a substantially improved performance in terms of coordination and concentration to overcome Portsmouth RFC, in a rather scrappy London 2SW match.
King’s played with the brisk breeze in the first half. Conditions underfoot were treacherously slippery, which inhibited more expansive back play. It was therefore down to the pack to secure sufficient good quality field position to ensure that King’s could control the game, and all 8 rose to the challenge.
Outside the scrum, Will Slater and Rory Jones combined well at halfback, mixing a range of attacking options as they tried to put the outside backs away in space, despite the difficulties imposed by the surface.
King’s scored early on through a brace of penalty goals, both kicked by Gareth Stoppani. The visitors generally dominated territory and possession throughout the half. However it took some while to break down the determined Portsmouth defence, until Tom Dugarin broke through deep in the Portsmouth 22, and good close support play enabled hooker Joe Whitehead to cross for the first King’s try, Stoppani converting (0-13).
In the course of the first half King’s secured three clean strikes against the head – an almost unprecedented scrummaging statistic in the modern game. The front row (Jonathan Kiddle, Joe Whitehead and Joe Mason), supported by the boiler room of John Walton and the returning Scott Sparks, deserve great credit for this achievement – there are few more morale-sapping events in rugby than the repeated loss of your own scrum ball.
Overall, King’s were a little disappointed to turn around with a lead of just 13 points.
The second half saw King’s quickly take yet another strike against the head, at which point Portsmouth made some changes and were able to restore scrummaging parity.
It was King’s who again set up and converted a scoring opportunity: a drive and short side roll-out from a lineout provided the chance for Harrison David to race in for a try; Stoppani inevitably converted.
The game then entered its critical phase, with King’s loosing influential number 8 Louis Mather with a hamstring injury. Replacement Luke Minors, an outside back, bravely slotted in at blindside flanker in a rearranged back row, with the outstanding Sam Young & Chris Breslin. At this stage, Portsmouth mounted their most sustained period of attacking play of the match. Portsmouth’s efforts were rewarded with a fine converted try following a 4-man lineout; the King’s defence had drifted a little too wide, and the Portsmouth number 8 accelerated from deep to drive through the resultant gap to score in the corner.
With half an hour left on the clock, 7-20 was a far from comfortable margin for King’s, with the large, vocal and very sporting Portsmouth home support urging their side on.
In the event, a try by Harrison Scowsill proved to be the decisive and final score. Strong defensive pressure exerted by the King’s back row led to Young’s charge-down of the attempted clearance kick, and Scowsill gathered to race in for the try, out wide on the left. Stoppani’s ‘dying duck’ conversion attempt just cleared the cross-bar, showing admirable economy of effort. 7-27.
King’s efforts to secure a fourth try bonus point were frustrated by the award of a technical yellow card against them about 12 minutes from time; several of the home supporters generously commented that this was a rather harsh decision. King’s eschewed penalty goal kicking opportunities to attempt another try, but fell just short on this occasion.
Mention should be made of Brett Williams’ contribution as the front row impact substitute, helping King’s to retain possession and forward momentum as the clock ran down. Another highlight of the second half was a brilliant dispossession rip and subsequent drive up-field by captain Jon Kiddle, after a Portsmouth attacking line-out 5 meters from the King’s line. ‘The shoeing was well worth it!’ Kiddle said afterwards, speaking as a true prop forward.
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King’s entertain Warlingham next week, KO 3:00 PM at Fortress Motspur Park.
Warlingham edged London Cornish 16-15 this week, and this result leaves Totts as league leaders. King’s are presently equal 5th, tied with Warlingham and the Old Farragians.
Congratulations to the 2s on their emphatic 42-8 victory over the Old Whitgiftians. It’s always especially rewarding to see off those boys…
1st XV versus Portsmouth: Joe Mason, Joe Whitehead, Jon Kiddle (captain); John Walton, Scott Sparks; Sam Young, Louis Mather, Chris Breslin; Will Slater, Rory Jones; Harrison David, Tom Dugarin, Harrison Scowsill, Paddy Smith; Gareth Stoppani. Bench: Brett Williams, Luke Minors.
Scorers: Stoppani: 2 PGs, 3 cons (12 points); tries: Whitehead, David, Scowsill (3: 15 points