Hat trick of tries scored by Paul Haig in the first fifteen minutes followed by a hat trick for Reion Rabye and two a-piece for Tom Coad and Rob Saunderson and one for Luke Boyns created another league win by Charlton against a Lewes side, that at times looked overwhelmed, and thereby consolidating their top of the league position.

The match started in not the most auspices way for Charlton when after one minute of play had a played sin-binned for a tackle that was perceived to be high. Charlton did not allow this set-back to affect their play as efficiently used their forwards to carry the ball and providing a solid basis to run the ball when able.

From the first scrimmage Charlton had shown their superiority in this facet of play as they had pushed Lewes’ scrum backwards. Despite only having fourteen players on the field Charlton opened the scoring when following a strike against the head by Charlton’s hooker Josh Mickelburgh that started a flowing move that saw the ball being passed at speed and accuracy through a number of pairs of hands before Haig finished off the move by touching the ball down in the corner.

Then followed a period of ten minutes that saw Charlton’s expansive play help to extend their lead with a further two try from Haig the first after another passing move that saw the ball being passed through five pairs of hands and the third which was scored from long range after Charlton’s forwards had pushed Lewes off the ball. Having missed his first two conversion attempts Coad made no mistake with his third attempt.

The bonus point try was scored midway through the half when following a good pick up of the ball at the base of a scrum by Number eight Boyns and his break saw him into open space where upon being tackled his well-judged pass was taken by Coad entering Joining the line from full-back and direct running enabled him to ride several tackles to touch the ball down under the goal posts to aid his second successful conversion.

Charlton’s forwards were enjoying a considerable advantage in both loose and tight play and providing impetus for Charlton to pressurise Lewes deep into the visitors’ half. It was following a scrum close to the Lewes try line that saw Boyns turn try scorer when he picked up from the base of a wheeling scrum and drove over to score a try with Coad kicking the resultant conversion.

Despite having to defend for the majority of the half Lewes had shown glimpse of play and they were rewarded for their efforts when in the last minutes of the half they exerted pressure on Charlton who were forced into giving away a series of penalties Eventually the pressure Lewes exerted lead to them scoring a converted try to close out the half with Charlton holding an extremely comfortable lead.

The whole emphasis of the game changed at half time when injuries suffered by both teams lead to a number of substitutions and unfortunately for Charlton scrummages had to go uncontested as Lewes’s front row replacement sustained an injury.

Relieved of scrummaging duties freed up Charlton’s front five forwards and they began to vent their frustration of losing an advantage by driving forward with more vigour. It was a replacement Alan Knuckey, playing in the unaccustomed position of wing, that created the first try of the second half when following a robust driving play from Charlton his positioning saw him collected a Lewes box kick and his break saw him set in motion a move that saw prop Saunderson stepping out of tackles to score the first points of the half. To compound Lewes’ troubles the resultant restart saw Mark Hark-Singh collect the ball and his break up field saw him chip the ball and when Lewes were unable to control the ball as it went over their goal line Reion Rabye who was going to be the benefactor of this aspect of play when he dived onto the ball to score another try for Charlton.

With play now being played deep in the Lewes and Charlton dominate all aspects of play further tries were inevitable as they pressed forward. Throughout the game Charlton’s kick chase had been excellent and it was Rabye who went close to scoring his second try when his pursuit of a Thor Normann clearance kick saw him regain control of the ball but desperate Lewes defence stopped him ten metres short of the goal line.

It was Sam Baker’s exemplary play at the break down when he ripped the ball out of Lewes’ possession and following a well-orchestrated series of “pick and goes” Saunderson crossed the try line to score his second try of the match. With Charlton running moves almost at will some complacency crept into their play and this was reflected as overambitious passes were attempted or slack play showed however Charlton’s backs continued to create scoring opportunities and Coad was unlucky to have been held up after a telling run. It was from the ensuing scrum Rabye scored his second try when following good passing he touched the ball down and five minutes later Coad scored another to take his tally to two for the match.

With time running short for both sides play began to lose its precision and Lewes were rewarded for their persistence in trying to attack when able as they scored their second try of the game. This temporary setback did not affect Charlton’s resolve and further chances were created including one that saw Mickelburgh denied his maiden first team try by desperate Lewes defence. Rabye completed his hat trick of tries when once again he was the recipient of the ball following good passing from a scrum. Coad added two second half conversions to take his points tally for the day to twenty.

Charlton had a week’s break before they visit Warlingham to play their penultimate league fixture of the season on 5th April which should see them win the league their first since 1996.

By Roe Belcher