Kings College School Old Boys made heavy work of a Winchester side that lacked penetration in a must win game. In the end, with a scruffy 13 points to 11 away victory, Kings took revenge on a Winchester side that humbled them earlier this year.
Winchester will have only themselves to blame if this game marks the deciding blow in a campaign that had once looked so promising. At the death with two points in it, deep in the opposition 22 and awarded a penalty they chose to scrum. Almost any other option would have given them more security. As it was, they lost possession, were penalised and could only watch as the ball was kicked out of play with their chances of avoiding relegation sailing out with it.
In a first half that started well, Winch put immediate pressure on Kings, forcing a penalty and from 40 metres out Ollie Dunger took the 3 points on offer. They followed it up with confident play in all areas; Tom Forster linking up with his trademark runs down the wing, Charlie Preston taking out the fly half with a bone crunching tackle and the forwards rampant in the loose, Gareth Martin providing a steady hand at number 8.
Martin’s men will have been frustrated that their efforts to win possession did not result in territory. It was a first quarter where Winch promised more than they delivered, and Kings countered by soaking up the pressure, their fly half consistently kicking deep into the Winchester half. As Winch failed to recognise that kicks for territory would relieve pressure, so Kings grew in composure.
The game was played between the respective 22 metre lines. As both sides struggled for advantage, Winch were steadily losing the penalty count, and as they were penalised for going offside, Kings kicked deep into their opponent’s half.
In one of those moments that can determine a game an under-pressure Winch were being tested. The first thrust for the line was held up by full bodied forward defence but the penalties kept coming and Winch couldn’t kick themselves out of trouble. Kings had faith in their driving maul, and finally, after much effort they dropped down in the corner for an unconverted try.
The last five minutes of the half were a high intensity conflict as Winch fought back. Everybody was playing on the edge, and it almost worked, as Forster slipped down the wing with only the tryline in front of him. But the referee had seen an infringement, blew up and awarded Kings a penalty in front of the posts. A yellow card followed, Martin was sent to the bin, and Kings took the three points to lead 3 points to 8 at half time.
After the highs of pre-season games Winch have lost their winning ways, but they still retain their pride and the fourteen men held out numerous assaults on their line. Kings infringed and as Dunger kicked a penalty, Martin returned to the game, still with only two points in it.
Momentum is everything and, while Winch breathed a sigh of relief, Kings caught them out wide as their wing slipped over for another unconverted try. Down but not out at 6 points to 13 there was still one score in it, and Winch needed it the most. Realising that they needed to play a pressurising game, Josh Tolan at fly half, began to put the ball in the right areas and Kings were at last being tested on their own line.
Winch’s fiery attack shifted the ball this way and that, pulling the furious Kings defence all over the width of the field. The try, when it came, saw Kings run out of men, as Martin stood up his opposite number and neatly offloaded to the dynamic Forster, who scored in the corner. The kick to tie the game was a difficult one, and Dunger having kept them in the game will have been disappointed to see it slip under the bar.
Kings may not have the stuff of league leaders but they did enough in the final ten minutes to frustrate a side that threw everything they had at them. Winch no longer have the penetrating runners that they started the season with and, despite Tolan’s elusive side steps, could not create phases of coherent attack. It was back to the forwards who bludgeoned and forced their way as best they could. They won three consecutive line outs, keeping Kings confined in the red zone. It looked as though it might be enough. But rugby, despite its physicality, requires the intense precision of chess and Winch conceded the game with one false move. As they knocked on from the final scrum, Kings knew they only had to hold the ball to win the game.
Winch knew they had blown a chance to climb out of the relegation zone. They had played well at times, particularly in defence, but when it mattered most they were unable to clinically finish off the game. They were capable of winning in the first half but made the kind of tactical errors that keep you in the relegation zone. With four games left, Winch know they have some crucial contests ahead.
Try : Forster
Penalties : Dunger x2
Updated 19:58 - 11 Mar 2018 by derek Cheshire
B Turner, A Lee, J Beavan (c), C Ettinger, M Golding, A Hiscock, S Walker, G Martin
O Ashton, J Tolan, O Dunger, A Bayliss, W Wood, C Preston,
J Afandari, D Beegan, A Dandy