Rob Saunderson’s five try haul on Saturday set up for a hard earned win on Saturday for Charlton Park against a highly committed Aylesford side who staged a strong fight back in the second half to enable them to run Charlton close and cause anxious moments for the visitors.

It was over-ambition from Charlton that lead to Aylesford taking the lead when the home side intercepted an attempted cut out pass and Aylesford’s fly half ran the ball to touch down under the goal posts to aid his subsequent successful conversion.

Having suffered an early set back to their ambitions Charlton then proceeded to implement their game utilising their forwards, who from the outset had gained the ascendency against their opponents. With Charlton running the ball back at every opportunity lead by full back Tom Coad and winger Reion Rabye to the fore Aylesford began to concede penalties, and Charlton forced their opponents into having to defend in their twenty two metre area.

It was following the award of a penalty Rabye opted to tap the ball and make a break which lead to Aylesford just being able to hold him up; however from the resultant five metre scrum drove Aylesford backwards over their goal line enabling Saunderson to touch the ball down for his first try of the afternoon thereby setting off a try blitz for twenty minutes.

Charlton went close to scoring their second try when following a solid thirty metre drive the ball was released to their backs and following slick transference of the ball through a number of pairs of hands and with the try line open the final long pass just eluded wing Kenny Molekoa’s grasp. However it was Charlton’s enterprise and hard running saw them score a second try through Rabye following a sweeping run back of a clearance kick by Coad.

Having taken the lead Charlton continued to force Aylesford back through a combination of hard running and direct forward play. In their efforts to contain Charlton efforts Aylesford gave away a penalty and fly half Tom Amzaleg, putting his two missed conversions behind him took the opportunity to extend Charlton’s well merited lead.

With Charlton’s forwards winning ball with ease and Amzaleg tactical kicking was causing Aylesford to play in their own twenty two metre area. It was following another good run by Charlton’s backs that saw the ball ultimately reach the hands of Terry Read and his rumbustious run saw him split the Aylesford defence and another quick transference the ball reach Saunderson in the wing position and he drove over for the second of his tries. Saunderson’s third try of the half came following another following move that saw backs and forwards linking well together.

It was following a break by Will Robertson aided by the omnipresent Saunderson that lead to Charlton being awarded a penalty close to Aylesford’s goal line and Charlton opted for a scrum. Having been deemed to have been “held up” on his first attempt Saunderson made no mistake at the reset scrum as he touched the ball down for his “hat-trick” try of the half, and Amzaleg had added his second successful conversion of the half.

With only a few minutes Aylesford utilised a good field position from a line out to show a glimpse of their attacking threat when following several good breaks the ball was passed out wide and the home side scored their second try of the match to leave the score at half time 27-12 in favour of Charlton after.

The second half started with Charlton suffering a near shock when an elementary error saw the give away a kickable penalty but luckily for them the ball hit the upright and following several more scares they finally cleared the ball out of danger.

It was a combination of good running and interplay between Read, Ben Chappell and Rabye that saw Saunderson on hand to finish off the sweeping move by touching the ball down for his fourth try of the game. With Charlton continuing to press Molekoa was once again just deprived of a try when following him chasing an astute kick through the ball just eluded him enabling Aylesford to touch the ball down in their goal area: however this was the catalyst for Saunderson’s fifth and Charlton’s last of the match. Aylesford in their haste to take a quick restart failed to notice Saunderson and when the kick was taken he was in a position to charge the ball down and his quicker reactions saw him reach the ball and touch it down for the try.

With the game seemingly out of their reach half way through the half several substitutions seemed to bring belief to Aylesford and allied to Charlton falling off their game Aylesford began to gain the upper hand leading to a torrid last period of play for the visitors.

It was following both sides being reduced to fourteen when they had a man yellow carded and it was Aylesford who adapted better to the situation. It was following a period of pressure that Aylesford scored their third try and from the restart Charlton’s woes were compounded when they dropped off tackles and Aylesford score another try to give them a try bonus point. With two successful conversions the match had swung in favour of Aylesford and

The last few minutes of the half saw Charlton defending for all their worth but a rampant Aylesford laid siege to Charlton but Charlton’s defence held until the final play of the match when Aylesford scored their fifth try of the game which was converted to give Aylesford their second bonus point.

By Roe Belcher


Aylesford’s view of the match

by Nick France

After being put to the sword for the first 60 minutes of the match, the Bulls showed great character to fight back and pick up a couple of bonus points and come within one score of league leaders Charlton Park.

Yet again the Bulls were forced into several changes through injury and unavailability, but were pleased to welcome young South African duo Edmund Mtshali (Senzo) and Phumlani Kongwana (Fish) who join the Bulls for six months on an International Exchange Programme.

The match started at a frantic pace with both sides keen to establish patterns of play in the early exchanges. On six minutes Bulls young scrum half Jonathan Mann made a lovely jinking run from the base of the scrum to take play deep into the Charlton Park half. Pressure was applied on the visitors attempt to take play back up the field and three minutes later Bulls fly half and skipper Dan Harvey intercepted a floated pass 35 metres out to race to the line. He converted his own try and the Bulls were 7-0 up.

At this stage it was looking good for the Bulls, but for the next half hour they were hit hard by Charlton Park’s forward power and a series of good cohesive plays and hard running which saw them spending long periods in their own 22 defending and conceded 27 unanswered points through four tries, two conversions and a penalty.

As the half was coming to a close the Bulls re-grouped and from a four man line-out 40 metres out Mann made another break and fed the ball toEdmund Mtshali who made a powerful run and linked with Phumlani Kongwana who drew the last defender and spun the ball out to replacement flanker Phil Wilkins to dive over the line in the left hand corner. Harvey’s conversion attempt slipped wide of the uprights and the half finished with Charlton Park 27-12 up.

From the re-start the Bulls had a chance to add to their tally but Harvey hit the upright with a penalty attempt and for the next 20 minutes they were forced into several personnel and positional changes through injury, coupled with a couple of moments of madness, they found themselves back under their own posts twice on 51 and 59 minutes and were staring down both barrels of a real thumping at 39-12 down.

Influential full back Dion Comerford was injured trying to defend the try and without any other options available loose head prop Bob Nanson was asked to take to the field of play. Nanson wasn’t due to play as he was running the Folkestone half marathon on Sunday but answered a last minute call-up when youngster Josh Ellis was injured. The introduction of Nanson solidified the scrum with Mtshali moving back to hooker and with Simon Hollister at tight head they looked like a match for the heavier Charlton Park pack. Coupled with Nanson’s introduction No. 8 Elliott Johnston, who had been having a strong game at the base of the scrum, move into the centres and the team took on a complete new look and belief and they started taking the game to the tiring Charlton Park forwards.

From the re-start a small altercation between Bulls replacement right winger James Batstone and the Charlton Park No. 8 saw them both receiving yellow cards. The Bulls adapted better with a man down and on 65 minutes a spell of pressure in the visitors 22 saw good link play from open side flanker Greg Spencer creating space for left wing Steve Hatley but he was forced into touch a couple of metres short of the line. The resulting plays saw the Bulls have several stabs at the Charlton Park line through the low numbers and on 68 minutes they were finally rewarded with lock Pete Webdale being driven over. Harvey added the conversion to take the score to 19-39.

From the re-start the Bulls secured several good phases of play and through a strong run from centre Mike Inglis they took play into the Charlton Park 22. A couple of close drives from the forwards gained little reward, but then Mtshali got his hands on the ball and he showed exceptional power to break the first line of defence then put in a couple of steps to unbalance the two remaining defenders and bulldozed his way over the line just to the right of the posts securing the Bulls first bonus point. Harvey again added the extras and the Bulls were clearly in the ascendance, but still 26-39 down.

With the Bulls looking much fresher than the visitors going into the closing minutes of the game they again took play deep into Charlton Park territory and set up a number of forward drives to suck in the defence and then looked to release their re-energised back line. The visitors defence held firm until the final play of the match when a scrum ten metres from the line was secured and the slight figure of Mann, who has been a massive bonus for the bulls this season, powered his way through the defence and over the line. Harvey’s successful conversion was the final act of the match leaving the players and supporters wondering what could have been if the re-start was allowed to be taken.

On reflection it was a minor miracle that the Bulls came away from the match with two bonus points after the first 60 minutes with Charlton Park the far more powerful, dynamic and cohesive side, but it’s another very promising sign for the Bulls management that their young side showed the character they did to respond from a position of adversity.