‘Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer…’
Of course I am exaggerating – but only a bit. Early Spring sunshine and warmth, combined with a firm playing surface, provided a perfect environment for King’s to express their preferred expansive style to the full. The Reigatians started and finished competitively, but for the most part were swept away by as complete a team performance as most of us have ever seen from a King’s 1st XV. The weather attracted a large crowd of distinguished and disreputable King’s alumni, parents and friends, and they were treated to an expansive display of attacking rugby, with clinically accurate finishing.
We have of course known about the attacking potential in the King’s squad, and its realisation was as much a matter of focussed execution as of taking advantage of the perfect conditions. It was the King’s defence which in practice dominated the early stages, as waves of Reigatian attacks were effectively pushed back at or behind the gain line, with strong and technically effective tackling by all, and especially from the front row of Joe Mason, Captain Jonny Kiddle and Brett Williams. Mason was outstanding, steadily securing turn-overs and penalties for King’s throughout the game.
The pack established dominance in most phases during the first quarter, and this naturally set up the platform for more and more expansive play as our metaphorical scoreboard ticked-up throughout the first half. The King’s half backs Will Slater and Rory Jones combined well, and cleverly mixed probing runs and kicks with regular launches of the speedy King’s backs. The scoring was opened by a Gareth Stoppani penalty goal. Soon afterwards, Slater broke deep into Reigatian territory; he was supported by another accurate run by George Taylor, and Will timed his pass to send George over the line for the first try. Stoppani converted.
Stoppani added a further penalty goal (13-0), after which King’s increased the tempo and ambition of their attacks, and accumulated 26 unanswered points: Stoppani gathered a beautifully directed and weighted kick ahead by Luke Minors to race into the corner; flanker Diggie Forshaw touched down at the conclusion of a successful driving maul; number 8 Alex Humphries powered over the line for a robust solo try, which secured a bonus point; and Luke Minors athletically caught Rory Jones’s diagonal kick to the right wing, and touched down in the corner. Gareth Stoppani converted three of these tries, and the half time score was 39-0 to King’s.
King’s naturally relaxed in the second half, occasionally trying some creative and adventurous attacking options. Further tries were recorded by Stoppani (from a clever kick by Minors), George Taylor (after one of his trademark outrageous steps inside…) and Tom Smith. Stoppani added two more conversions, and Minors slotted one of his own. Reigatians surged back for a sustained assault on the King’s line in the last minutes of the game, and were rewarded with a close quarters try, which was converted.
The whole King’s pack turned in an outstanding performance, as the three units achieved superiority in their more specialist disciplines, and all combined together to deliver solid, almost impenetrable defence, and effective support for the outsides. The back row of Forshaw, Humphries and Guy Tyler excelled in all phases, and the second row of James Currie and John Walton produced their most dominant lineout effort of the season, combined with energetic all round play.
This performance was a great reward for the season’s efforts of captain Kiddle and coach Sam Richards, and of all who are committed to the Club. The team of course thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon, and they brought much pleasure to all who were lucky enough to have been there. How much more rewarding a way this was to spend a Saturday afternoon than watching musclebound mercenaries pounding over penalty goals in the Premiership…
Last week I recalled this league’s tradition of producing apparently surprising late season results, and Portsmouth’s defeat of Effingham & Leatherhead and Farnham’s 24-25 win at Winchester fulfil expectations. And London Cornish just squeezed past the always dangerous Alleynians 18-16. King’s now trail 4th placed Alleynians by 2 points with 3 league games to play, setting up our visit to Dulwich on 21st March.
Saturday’s match doubled up as a semi-final of the Surrey Trophy, and we will now play Guildford in the final, which is presently scheduled for the Spring Bank Holiday Monday, 4th May, at Esher RFC.