On a crisp, still afternoon, the King’s 1st XV survived a last gasp penalty goal attempt to edge a victory in an entertaining and agonisingly close contest against an impressive Alleynian outfit. Two gifted back lines just about cancelled each other out, but King’s did create more scoring opportunities over the 80 minutes. The massive Alleynian second row performed well in the line outs, and the King’s pack once more dug in with a superior performance in the set scrums – and eventually in the driving mauls.
The early exchanges were even, with both teams missing penalty attempts. King’s lost 2nd row Alex Humphries to a knee injury about midway through the half, with John Walton taking over from the bench. As the half progressed, King’s assumed some dominance in territory, with Jonny Bell’s penetrating runs particularly stretching the Alleynian defence; and it was marauding play by Bell following a scrum that brought him a fine solo try, Tom Dugarin converting. Bell might well have added another in support of Dugarin’s scything break, but could not hold the sharp pass that would have put him in under the posts. So at half time King’s held a slender 7-0 lead.
The Alleynians came back strongly in the second half, with King’s defending well in all positions, until the Alleynian 12 broke the line and ran in to touch down; the conversion was successful. Alleynians’ territorial advantage at this stage of the game made further scores for them seem likely, but they had to settle for a drop goal after 60 minutes, to take the lead for the first time, at 7-10.
King’s dug deep, and at last relieved the territorial imbalance. Left wing Ashley Smith nearly created a try from apparently very little, which was denied by a handling error in the red zone. It was now the King’s pack, with prop Joe Mason to the fore, who took up the challenge, with one driving maul surging some 40 meters through the Alleynian half; this time it was the concession of a penalty that ended the opportunity. King’s continued to achieve forward momentum, and finally scored when Bell drove over from close range, after another excellent maul had set up the opportunity. The conversion out wide was missed, so the score was now just 12-10 in King’s favour.
King’s seemed to have sufficient control to close out the game over the last 10 minutes. All was going well until deep into injury time, when the referee awarded a penalty against King’s for a front row offence. King’s were then marched back 10 meters for kicking the ball away, bringing the place kick attempt into reasonably short range. In the event, the kick was hooked across the face of the goal, and King’s gratefully grounded the ball in-goal to end proceedings. Celebrations were muted, many on both teams remembering a similar miss by King’s in the equivalent fixture two seasons ago.
Alleynians’ striking post-game Christmas ‘fashion’ show, and their whole squad’s energetic attempt to drink the King’s bar dry, reflect great credit on their sporting ethos and classic rugby humour.
King’s must take satisfaction from narrowly defeating a speedy, ambitious and skilled opponent. Our margin in 4th place is now 7 points. Elsewhere in London 2SW, Tottonians won 6-19 at Cornish, fly half Robbie Searle scoring all of their points. This result carries Totts to 1st position. King’s travel to Totton next Saturday, and will need to find top form, focus and discipline against a team that has lost just once (to Alleynians…) this season.