King’s College, Taunton held out against relentless pressure from Kingswood School, Bath in the final ten minutes to record a 12-7 win
The continued heavy rain in the West Country threatened to disrupt this block fixture, but excellent work by the King’s ground staff meant that the 1st and 2nd XV pitches passed an early morning inspection, and all but one of the games went ahead, with a few being switched to Bath. Both sides have had tough seasons, with Kingswood losing some close games in recent weeks after being competitive against a strongly fancied Wellington College side in the Champions Trophy.
After the visitors had kicked off, both sides enjoyed some early territorial gains, but the first scoring opportunity came when King’s attacked close to the Kingswood 22 and a well weighted grubber kick from fly half Steffan Crimp found touch in the right corner. However the referee had been playing advantage and brought play back for a penalty. The decision was made to go for the three points, but Crimp’s kick from the tee went just wide and Kingswood full back Marcus Kershaw cleared to half way.
After both sides had exchanged kicks, Kingswood used first phase ball from a scrum to move the ball through the hands on the left, but the final pass went astray, giving King’s the throw into the line-out. Although a knock-on gave possession back to Kingswood, King’s recovered and got excellent distance on a clearance kick to relieve the pressure. A box kick by Kingswood scrum half Ciaran McCarthy took play back into the King’s half, but the Taunton side broke out on the right and a kick by wing Josh Drew enabled them to retain possession close to the Kingswood line. The defence resisted the initial pressure, but were forced to concede a penalty, from which King’s opted for a scrum. Possession was won from the set piece and second row Cameron Duncan crashed over for the opening score. Crimp’s conversion attempt was unsuccessful.
The momentum remained with King’s from the restart, with good chasing of scrum half Harry Blakely’s box kick forcing Kingswood to concede a penalty, and with possession won from the ensuing line-out, captain and No 8 Joseph Messenger carried powerfully into the Kingswood 22, but was unable to find support with an offload and Kingswood were able to clear. A well weighted kick to the corner by Crimp again put pressure on the defence, but on this occasion Kingswood were able to retain and run out possession, No 8 Ciaran McCarthy and wing Charlie Roach combining effectively.
There was just time before the interval for the home side to create one more scoring opportunity. After the forwards had applied pressure in the left corner, the ball came back to centre Charlie Spurr who found an excellent line to cut through the defence, but he was unable to link with wing Hugo Larkin who was in space on the left.
Half-time: King’s College, Taunton 5-0 Kingswood School
The Kingswood coaches had evidently got across some important messages during half-time, and they were quick to create a scoring chance. After securing the restart, they won a penalty on half way, kicked to the left by Kershaw. With possession won, an impressive driving maul took play close to the line and, although that was finally stopped, the ball was moved through the hands into midfield where centre Ethan Hawtin cut through to score under the posts, Roach converting.
After Kershaw had cleared from the restart, King’s looked to involve the dangerous Larkin, coming off his wing to take the ball in midfield. Although he was stopped, possession was retained and for a moment it seemed that King’s would break through to score again, but the decisive pass had gone forward. After an exchange of kicks Drew managed to find space on the right, but King’s were penalised and Kingswood, winning a line-out on half way, again showed the power of their driving maul. However the momentum soon shifted back to the Somerset school.
King’s took play deep into the Kingswood 22 when loose head prop Ryan Phillips, showing an impressive turn of speed, broke through on the left. He was finally pulled down by the cover defence, but after another exchange of kicks between Crimp and Kershaw, King’s won a turnover inside the Kingswood half and quick ball saw Spurr again find a great line to cut through and score on the left. Full back Milo Blakely, taking over the place kicking duties, added the conversion.
Although King’s managed a safe exit from the restart, the Kingswood forward pack were starting to apply some pressure and the home side’s clearance kicks were being returned with interest. When King’s were penalised on half way after effective use of the pick-and-go tactic by Kingswood, a well-placed kick by Kershaw gave his side an attacking line-out in the left corner. Although a maul was again set up, it was well defended and King’s forced a scrum. Replacement back row player James White picked up from the base but the clearance kick was a short one and the pressure continued.
The momentum was now very much with the Bath based school, and they dominated both territory and possession in the final quarter. Pressure in the left corner was briefly relieved when Drew fielded a kick ahead and evaded the Kingswood chasers, but although King’s defended tenaciously they struggled to string together the phases that would have given their hard pressed forwards the chance for some respite.
With time running out, a clearance kick went out on the full, giving Kingswood an attacking line-out on the 22. Possession was secured from the set piece and the ball moved through the hands into midfield, where Hawtin again found a good line to break through. Desperate cover tackling saw him stopped 5m short, but Kingswood recycled the ball through several more phases and won a penalty, kicked to the right corner for what looked likely to be the final play. The driving maul was duly set up and it made inexorable progress right up to the line. A dramatic late score seemed inevitable but somehow King’s regained possession and ran the ball out towards the 22. The chance of a score seemed to have gone but there was a final twist when an attempted kick was caught by Kingswood. Play was switched to the left, where an overlap beckoned but somehow King’s scrambled the ball into touch and the referee blew for full time.
This was a gripping finish to an entertaining and closely contested game between two well matched sides. Kingswood now finish their season with two home fixtures, while King’s travel a short distance to for their local Derby against Taunton School in their final fixture.
Full-time: King’s College, Taunton 12-7 Kingswood School
By Peter Crawshaw
King’s College, Taunton: Ryan Phillips, George Small, Tommy Richardson-Jones, Cameron Duncan, Jago Schmidt, William Hall, Michael Bray, Joseph Messenger (Capt), Harry Blakey, Steffan Crimp, Hugo Larkin, Ethan Badcock, Charlie Spurr, Josh Drew, Milo Blakey
Replacements: James White, William Brooke-Webb
Kingswood School: Tom Redman, Charlie Fry, Callum Chamberlain, Ben Cox, Darcy van Gerwen, Gabriel Montiforie-Vita, Rory Padkin, Ciaran McCarthy, Ben Shardlow, Antonio Mba, Charlie Roach, Ethan Hawtin, Matthew Hooper, B. Nokes, Marcus Kershaw
Replacements: J. Nicholson