Felsted secured their first win of the season with an excellent display against King’s Canterbury on Tuesday for a 27-12 victory.
King’s were two from two heading into the game, but while Felsted had lost their two games, there was a sense that they were playing well following good displays against both Harrow and Haileybury.
That theory was almost immediately shown to be true as Felsted came charging out of the blocks, taking a 20-0 lead after just 25 minutes of the game.
Perhaps that lead came to easily though, as from there Felsted allowed their opponents back into the match, though it must be said that King’s Canterbury’s intensity and accuracy improved markedly as they reduced that 20-0 gap to 27-12 by the end of the game.
It was a sensational start from the hosts though, who took full advantage of surprisingly hot and dry conditions, using the full width of the field and getting the ball through as many pairs of hands as possible.
Within barley a minute that expansive style of play paid off with a penalty, which fly half and vice captain Matt Gilham slotted over for the early lead. Barely five minutes later he was having another shot at goal, this time a slightly wide conversion attempt following a superb try.
The ball was worked blind down the left hand side, with winger Piers Martin taking the ball towards the line before releasing the excellent full back Tom Walker to score.
King’s were on the rocks, the sheer width and pace of the Felsted game at this point overstretching them and leaving them underpowered in midfield when Felsted’s power runners hit through the middle. That was especially true when loosehead Hugo Brown powered through, falling just short of the line. A few short phases later, Brown was back in possession again, this time crashing over from short range for this side’s second try, with Gilham converting to make it 15-0.
A growing influence on the game was Felsted openside Greg Oxlade. The flanker was operating at an intensity beyond anyone else on the field, even more so as the intensity dropped in the second half, and it was his influence that led to Felsted’s third try in the 25th minute.
Oxlade poached King’s Canterbury ball at the breakdown as the away side attempted to break out from their own 22. From the resulting penalty his side punched the ball into the corner, from which his second row, William Barker, drove over the line from the rolling maul.
Felted were 20-0 up and in control, but King’s were admirable from this point on. Fighting to finally get some possession in Felsted territory they set up wave after wave of attacking play as the clock ticked towards half time. That pressure paid off with a smart score through their forward pack, to leave the game at a far healthier 20-7 at the break, from their point of view.
That late King’s momentum suggested that the opening ten minutes of the second half would be vital. When Felsted scored a wonder try after just five minutes, that started with scrum half Connor Mak taking a quick tap in his own half and ended with centre Tom Hitchcock, whose brother George was key for the ISRFC Lambs last year, beating half a dozen men to score, it seemed that that might just be the game wrapped up.
However King’s were given a route back in just two minutes later as Felsted botched a quick lineout on their own five metre line, allowing King’s to pounce on a bobbling ball over the line to score, bringing the scoreline to 27-12.
That was how the game was to stay until the end, Felsted still dominated possession, but such was the confidence that they had gained from their opening quarter that they were sometimes just too keen to get the ball wide and behind the defence without softening up the middle first.
King’s, by contrast, improved as the game went on, bringing a more tactical approach to their game than the had early on as the looked to put boot to ball more often, while also being prepared to go wide in their own territory when the opportunity presented itself.
In the end though, the result was a fair one, Felsted showed throughout that they had the players to open up the defence. In number 8 and captain Ned Potter they have perhaps the fastest back row player in the country, something that he showed in both attack and defence.
He was just one of a number that impressed, particularly in that opening quarter, where the intensity, width, and all round ball-handling from 1 to 15 was highly impressive.
Both sides are in action again soon, King’s against Kent rivals Eastbourne College, and Felsted in the Cup against Brentwood. On today’s evidence, both should be capable of victory.
Full Time: Felsted 27-12 King’s School, Canterbury
Photos from the game can be seen on our Facebook Page here: Gallery, Felsted v King’s Canterbury
15 Tom Walker, 14 Joshua King, 13 Tom Hitchcock, 12 Olly Hills, 11 Piers Martin, 10 Matt Gilham (vc), 9 Connor Mak, 1 Hugo Brown, 2 Luke Bury, 3 Harry Sturge, 4 Jack Rye, 5 William Barker, 6 Mikey Barton, 7 Greg Oxlade, 8 Ned Potter (c).
Replacements: 16 Alex Manson, 17 Ronan Willis, 18 Henry Glydon.
King’s Canterbury XV – TBC