So, the journey of mutual love and affection between Charlton Park and the Intermediate Cup over the last eighteen months has finally come to a halt. We knew in our heart of hearts that a second successive trip to Twickenham might be a step too far and so it proved. Charlton Park gave it their all and the game was still in the balance at half-time but Camberley upped their defence in the second period, shut down the home team’s runners and then turned on the power. They are the best all-round team Charlton Park have come up against this season and seem well-prepared for London One.
After a balmy week of springtime, Broad Walk Kidbrooke SE3 was reduced to the Siberian tundra overnight, but although there was a covering of snow the pitch still had its softness underneath. With both clubs facing a fixture nightmare they wanted to play, but with an icy blast blowing across the field straight off the steppes, or at least Shooters Hill, the windchill factor was off the scale. The game that followed turned out to be much better than might have been expected, however, and more competitive than the score might suggest, but Camberley turned the screw remorselessly as the second half progressed and, although Park kept going, the visitors’ defence, led by a ruthless backrow, shut every door and then capitalised.
The game started with a bang, Camberley’s backs opening up immediately and offloading for a try under the posts. They were not finding it easy to handle Charlton’s scrum, however, who felt they might have had grounds for a penalty try. After a yellow card to the visitors’ loose head Park equalised. Jeremy Montes was creating some confusion with his runs and after he was brought down an exquisite kick into the space from Alan Knuckey left Ed Mason with no-one in front of him to pick up and score.
Connor McDonald had to opportunity to put Park ahead but his penalty hit a post, and Camberley were away with another 80 yard try under posts from centre Oli Wright. The gap was short-lived, Tommy Nightingale intercepting to race in, but the conversion was missed so both teams went for the sanctuary of the dressing rooms separated by a narrow two-point margin.
For the first twenty minutes of the second half the game remained in the balance, but Camberley’s defence was unyielding and Park were being forced into mistakes. Within four minutes the game was decided, with Charlton Park falling off tackles they were making until then, as bullocking runs first from the prop and then from flanker Alex Hughes, both converted, put Camberley into a lead Park were not going to claw back. They fought hard to the end and had a chance but the visitors stood firm and then increased their advantage when Park were deemed not to have put downward pressure on a loose ball over their line.
Congratulations to Camberley, who then did the honourable thing and stayed for a few drinks. We hope they can now go on to enjoy the day at HQ.
Many thanks to Nick, Dave, Richard and Mark for their line-clearing operation before the game, to Jackie and Leta , who were there at nine preparing lunch, and to Pauline and the barstaff – a huge day what with a wedding in the evening.