You never know what you’re going to get from Charlton Park at the best of times, so it came as a happy surprise to the supporters to witness a first-half performance as good as any all season. How well Park played was put into perspective by the second period when Beckenham came back with a vengeance.
A large crowd came to attend a minute’s silence for Beckenham former player and coach Rory Brown and they were given a game of high quality, with both sides moving the ball at every opportunity. Both sides were as strong as was possible although Park made an interesting change in the backs, introducing Luke Boyns to 12, and he duly went on to receive man-of-the-match, creating an interesting problem for selection next week when proper centres are available.
Charlton Park had the ball for most of the first half and played with a freedom and accuracy that belied the previous three weeks off. The ball carriers made gaps, recycling was sharp and the half-backs moved the ball quickly towards Reion Raybe and Jeremy Montes. There were three tries before half-time. First, and appropriately, Mark Harlow-Singh, who was a threat all game, broke through following a line-out. Then Rob Saunderson, who had a rampaging game, crashed over after a break from Tom Amzaleg and Sam Baker burst through under the posts, scattering defenders to add a third. Amzaleg then added an easy penalty.
So, 20-0 to Park at half-time, and the bonus-point try was not long in coming with a penalty try after an enormous Park scrum. Then things began to change. As Park got more on top in the scrum, so did Beckenham in the line-out. With more ball to play with their fly-half started to pull the strings. Two tries followed, and but for some last-ditch tackling from Tommy Nightingale and Raybe there could have been more. The growing dominance of Terry Read and Beau Stanford-Francis in the scrums helped defray the pressure and Park held out for a deserved win against a really good team.
A home supporter remarked that at least it was easy to see from the first half that they had had the better Christmas. A superb game, lovely generous hosts and a song from the two Presidents at lunch. The happiness on the faces of the players said it all – everyone really is deserving of a mention.
Next week we host runaway leaders Dartfordians. It promises to be a great game.