Parks and Gardens
It was the Park beating the Garden in this battle of the green spaces on Saturday at Broad Walk. In the semi-final of the London & South-East Division Intermediate Cup Charlton overturned last year’s defeat to the same opponents at the same place in the same round thanks to two tries from the pocket-rocket Reion Raybe.
The match decider came early in the second half with the game tied at 8-8. The ball came loose amongst a crowd of bodies near the right-hand touchline. Raybe snatched it up, wriggled through defenders who thought they had him covered, and was gone, scorching forty yards to a try.
It was Raybe’s second of the match and it proved to be the key moment in a battle between two teams so evenly matched that their playing patterns mirrored each other. Charlton had just about the upper hand in two strong scrums and two struggling line-outs, but both teams’ strengths were in the backs and it made for an enjoyable game, full of movement and strong defence, on a beautiful sunlit afternoon with not a hint of Storm Ciara just over the horizon.
After withstanding heavy pressure at the start Charlton sprang into an eight point lead with two back-to-back scores. After one penalty miss, Rio Cooper slotted the second, and then the home side broke immediately from receiving the kick-off, with Jake Conway breaking though and then sending Raybe away with a perfect pass to outsprint the cover to the corner.
Letchworth were always in the game, however, and it was hardly a surprise when a long period of possession led to a big overlap for right winger Luke Armstrong to score. A penalty just before the break levelled things up.
Windy Miller makes hay
The second half was a frantic battle, with defences holding sway. Charlton had just about the upper hand, thanks partly to a slightly gustier wind in their favour but it took two penalties from Alex Miller to see them through.
Rob Saunderson came on at half-time for his first first team appearance of the season and it was wonderful to see him back rampaging around the field.
He created the first penalty following up a perfectly placed kick from Cooper and was a constant menace with those trademark bursts.
This was a return to old-school rugby, with a large and vociferous bunch of away supporters who stayed, along with the team, to share beers and watch the international on the television. It is to be hoped we can get up to Hertfordshire for a pre-season game, we owe it to them.
For Park it was a good all-round team performance. Terry Read and Mark Harlow-Singh were joint men-of-the-match – their power held together a pack missing some heft, but Saunderson, Miller and of course Raybe can all be mentioned in dispatches and was great to have the McMullen twins buzzing around.
So now we play our friends and neighbours Old Colfeians in the London Final. They had a very good win over Farnham in the other semi, and the winners of that will have one of Wellington, Bideford, Swindon or Witney in the national semi-final. Meanwhile the games don’t ease up, with league-leaders Haywards Heath visiting Broad Walk next Saturday.
How the oppo reported the match.
Bromley 2nds 32 : 30 Charlton Park 2nds
Park 2nds lost an agonisingly close Kent Shield encounter away at Bromley on Saturday.
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