The cool head and unerring boot of Maidstone fly-half Harrison Millar snatched the visitors a draw with the last kick of the game on Saturday at Broad Walk. However, in all honesty, that is probably what both sides deserved from a tight encounter, where defence generally held sway.
Park started brightly but after several promising attacks they had to be content with a straightforward penalty from Tommy Nightingale to give them the lead, and this was almost immediately cancelled out by Millar at the other end. Then Charlton went through one of their crazy periods familiar to supporters from last year. The kick-off failed, and a penalty from the halfway spot after a scrum infringement was nonchalantly banged over. Then a wayward kick out of defence found the visitors’ flanker Richard Bowen and he showed an impressive turn of speed to circumnavigate Park’s cover and provide Millar with an easy conversion under the posts.
Facing a ten point deficit the home side camped themselves on the Maidstone line, but despite the visitors twice being reduced to 14 by yellow cards there was only a second penalty from Nightingale to show for their efforts.
The second half was an equally tight affair, but whereas Maidstone shaded the first period Park came more into the game and also restricted the visitors to just those three points at the finish. There were signs that the Charlton forwards were beginning to get on top and their ball carriers Mark Harlow-Singh and Luke Boyns were making bigger dents in the Maidstone midfield. The pressure finally told ten minutes from the end with a converted penalty try. The lead survived until the fourth minute of injury time.
Both sides seemed reasonably content with a share of the points at the end. Charlton Park can feel pleased in general with their set-piece, particularly the line-out, and they showed that they have potent attacking weaponry in their ball carriers and in their speed outside, but injuries hampered the game-plan. Debutants Tom Grocott and John Beith had reassuringly solid games and the second rows along with man-of-the-match Luke Boyns were outstanding.
Next week it’s the longest trip of the season down to Tottonians in Southampton for the first ever meeting between the clubs. Your correspondant looks forward to meeting the supporters for their first trip of the year. That’s Totton, not Tottenham by the way Terry!