The arrival of the monsoon in south-east London made this a game where players had to tough it out, not to mention spectators. Charlton Park kept their 100% record in the teeth of the horrific conditions and a determined Beccehamian opposition with a three try to one win.
With so much water about it was a tribute to both sides that a watchable game of rugby took place. There were dropped balls and slipping feet, leading to a greater number of scrums than usual, but there was also a lot of constructive attack and defence from both sides. In the end, however, it was the scrum that would count and Charlton’s dominance of that area in the second half that won the game.
At half-time Park found themselves behind 8-5. They started the stronger and after several drives and near misses the passes stuck and Tommy Nightingale, playing on the wing, finished off an overlap to put them ahead. The next twenty minutes became a midfield slugfest as defences for the most part swamped ball-carriers, but towards the end of the half the home side got the upper hand. It started with a long kick into the corner where Connor McDonald found himself penned in by three attackers following up and, after some heroic defending, the dam was breeched. Right on half-time a penalty gave Beccs the lead.
The tide turned after the break as the Charlton forwards grabbed control and field position. Both scores were penalty tries awarded as the scrum drove towards and in the first case over the line. The home side saw little of the other end of the field until the final few minutes when they reduced the lead with another penalty.
The front row would take it very badly if I didn’t mention them first – Terry Read, Beau Stanford-Francis and Adam Neale were the architects of the win with a dogged scrummaging display, backed up by a committed performance from everyone else. The line-out ball was also surprisingly clean given the conditions and Park’s policy was to keep possession in hand rather than give it away. It could be said that Charlton tried to play a bit too much rugby, and that a good solid hoof down the field might have been a good option at times, but Lee Amzaleg and Joe Simpson at half-back kept the game under control when necessary.
Ironically, the term ‘a perfect storm’ had been used to sum up the pre-match selection issues, with multiple unavailables, and which concluded with one car running out of petrol on the way to the match – resulting in Iwan Haines having to sub for all 15 positions.
Our thanks to Beccs for their superb hospitality, and a special mention for the referee who also had to survive the storm and did so with a calmness needed under such conditions.