King’s edged past a well-drilled Eagles squad, who will regard their losing bonus point as scant reward for their afternoon’s efforts. The match was a rugby connoisseurs’ treat, as the packs battled fiercely but fairly in all elements of the game, two threatening back-lines just about cancelled each other out through intensive defensive performances, and near perfect goal kicking by Gareth Stoppani and Eagles’ captain Brian Collins kept the scoreboard moving. It was only in the final 15 minutes of the game that King’s established a narrowly sufficient level of territorial dominance to secure the win.
King’s dominated in the early exchanges, but were denied by sound defence by the home team. The visitors’ attacking attempts were finally frustrated, and the Eagles then enjoyed a sustained period of attacking pressure. King’s in turn showed their commitment to rugged and accurate defence, until Collins backtracked to a deeper position and dropped a fine goal. King’s were relieved to come away at cost of only three points, and this event perhaps contributed to their growing confidence as the game progressed.
King’s were next to score through a Stoppani penalty, the first of six successful shots from a range of angles, and distances of up to 50 meters.
King’s only real defensive lapse gave Eagles’ half backs Putty & Collins space to manoeuvre after a quick heel from a set scrum, and they were able to put elusive inside centre Brayden Ridgeway (a recent acquisition from Barnes RFC) over for a try, Collins adding the extras. King’s responded with a sustained series of attacks, culminating in a well-worked touchdown that was disallowed by the referee on the grounds that he himself had obstructed a potential Eagles tackler. King’s had to content themselves with a subsequent Stoppani penalty goal, which was soon cancelled out by another successful effort by Collins. Half time saw the Eagles leading by 13-6, but with King’s looking forward to playing down wind in the second half.
After the restart, both sides continued to soak up their opponents’ attacking forays, with the scoring limited to two penalty goals each for King’s and the Eagles, bringing the score to 19-12 for the home side as the game ran into its final 15 minutes. It was then that King’s conditioning, tackling and superb will to win proved just sufficient to bring home the win. King’s established marginally superior field positioning, and that gave Stoppani the chance to convert two further penalty attempts: 19-18 Eagles. The King’s replacements again proved to be decisive factors, with one crunching tackle from Jonny Bell keeping the Eagles pinned back deep in their half.
The final and decisive score – leading to the only period in which King’s led the match – was a try in the left hand corner by Stoppani, after a characteristic weaving and powerful run. Almost inevitably, Stoppani converted from near the touchline: 19-25.
After the restart, the King’s pack engineered a turnover deep in their 22, and the team then maintained discipline and commitment to close out the game without further adventures.
The entire King’s squad can take great credit from an almost perfect defensive performance, with outstanding tackling combining with an obvious will to win. As the momentum of the contest shifted in the closing minutes, powerful runs by Louis Mather, energetically supported by Alex Humphries and the rest, provided the platform, impetus and opportunities for Stoppani to secure the necessary points. The match was fast, physical and fair throughout, and provided the real entertainment of a truly close contest. Players and supporters of both clubs will look forward to the return fixture at Motspur Park, on 21st February.
Despite King’s strenuous efforts, we have slipped back to 5th place in London 2SW, as Alleynians secured a bonus point win over hitherto undefeated Tottonians.
The team’s performance on Saturday shows a real maturing of Jon Kiddle’s captaincy, the squad proving that they can combine confidence and persistence with their undoubted speed and skill.
The next 1st XV match is at home on 15th November, when we entertain Farnham, who were well beaten at home by new league leaders London Cornish. Meanwhile, Tadley secured their first victory of the campaign, winning by one point at Old Reigatians. The league is now really interesting and competitive, with apparently surprising results occurring each week.
King’s scorer: Gareth Stoppani: 6 PGs (18), 1T (5), 1 con (2) – 25.
King’s starting XV: Harry Kersley, James Williams, Jon Kiddle (C); Alex Humphries, John Walton; Barry Williams, Joe Whitehead, Louis Mather; Will Slater, Will Nelson; Harrison David, Tom Dugarin, Harrison Scowsill, Patrick Smith; Gareth Stoppani.
Bench: Brett Williams, Brook Wannop, Jonny Bell.