This was always going to be the game of the season and boy was it. Cast your minds back to September 29th at Broad Walk and Park scoring two tries in the last five minutes to draw. This was almost the mirror image.
Charlton led deservedly 26-6 halfway through the second half but they had a Connor McDonald penalty to thank for the two-point margin of victory after Beckenham’s three tries under the posts threatened to turn the game agonisingly in their favour. When the ball rolled into touch after six minutes of added-on time and the referee put his whistle to his lips players from both sides sank to their knees. The large and vociferous crowd shared the exhaustion as they applauded both teams off.
Charlton Park won because they grabbed the game by the horns, from the positive selections of Ben and Josh McMullan for their debuts to the courageous attacking game plan. The line out was particularly effective both in winning its own but crucially in disrupting theirs, and as a result they were able to keep control of the ball for long periods during the middle of the game. When they came under pressure in the first twenty minutes the defensive pattern held firm and they were able to slow up or even turn over the ball at the tackle.
It was that defence that led to the first try, Jeremy Montes grabbing a ball lost in the tackle and running in from 40 yards. All the hosts had to show for that opening was a penalty. Park then had an extended purple patch that began when McDonald kicked a penalty towards the corner. Ross McManus won the line out and Charlton Park set up an immediate drive which was on the verge of scoring when it was brought down and the referee awarded a penalty try.
A beautiful third try came soon after. There were multiple phases as Beau Stanford-Francis, Terry Read and the irrepressible Ally McQuitty carried the ball forward and then quick passing across the backs gave Reion Raybe the momentum to catch the last tackler off balance and surge under the posts.
The domination continued after the break as the Beckenham defence was put under further pressure and it was Montes again who burst through a tackle, handed off the last man and bludgeoned over. Four tries and a bonus, but the home side was beginning to wake up and a try brought the crowd to their feet. Suddenly the pressure was reversed, James Cleverly was running through tackles and Park were kicking the ball back to them. Park had one opportunity to extend their lead but chose to tap and it came to nothing, but just after they opted to kick from a harder distance and McDonald slotted what was to be the decisive penalty.
Two more tries followed for Beckenham as they sensed that Park were there for the taking, but they just held on. Montes and McQuitty were joint men-of-the-match, deservedly, but the whole team stood up, not least the two debutant McMullan brothers, who it is clear will be a great asset to the club.
Many thanks to Michael O’Rourke and Beckenham RFC for their superb hospitality. They are a great club and we wish them well for the rest of what should be a triumphant season.
Next week, inexplicably, there is a free week, but then we are at home to Horsham in another big game. It was great to see and hear so many Park supporters; please keep coming.
Pictures are courtesy of Jack Adams Photography