2 NOVEMBER 2013

Charlton Park, with a seven try win over fifth in the league Tunbridge Wells, continued their recent good streak of form, and in doing so moved into second place in the league.

Playing with the benefit of a strong wind in their favour Charlton began brightly and the first twenty minutes of play saw Charlton linking well with the forwards making progress up field with driving play and allied to good lines of running and good handling Charlton took the match to Tunbridge.

The opening try of the match was the result of Charlton fine chasing of a clearance kick and following a ruck the ball found it’s way, via series of crisp well executed passes to Reion Rabye whose finished the move off to open the scoring.

With Charlton pressing Tunbridge were forced to play on the back foot and Charlton utilised their advantage by playing long periods of play in the visitors half. Having missed with his first kick fly half Thor Norman showed that that had been a glitch when with a well judged kick across the wind drifted the ball in to extend Charlton’s lead with a successful penalty.

Despite playing on the back foot for periods of time Tunbridge attacked when able and it was following Charlton holding up a rolling maul that Tunbridge scored their opening points of the match when at the subsequent scrum Charlton were adjudged to have offended and the visitors made a successful kick.

With Tunbridge having scored Charlton’s play went up to another level and this lead to them gaining a try scoring bonus point by half time. Through out the opening play Charlton’s forwards had been gaining the upper hand in all facets of play and following the award of a penalty they opted for field position and following a series of pick and drives scrum half Will Robertson was on hand to dive over to score Charlton’s second try.

Charlton’s forwards were to provide the next two tries scored aided and abetted by strong direct running by the backs. It was Rabye who was to provide the catalyst for the third try of the half when following another of his runs he was tackled in midfield close to the try line and from the ensuing scrum Charlton’s forwards drove Tunbridge backwards enabling Rob Saunderson pick up and drive over for the third try of the half.

The last try on the stroke of half-time was once again the result of driving play that saw Charlton execute a series of phases before flanker Sam Baker, enjoying his freedom to play a full part in the match, touched the ball down for the try that secured the bonus points. With Norman adding another two penalties Charlton finished the half holding a fairly substantial lead.

Playing with the benefit of the wind, although slightly reduced in strength Tunbridge started the second half hopeful of narrowing the deficit and the opening exchanges were in their favour. However it was Charlton that opened the second half scoring when , having absorbed Tunbridge’s opening plays, they worked their way back into the match and when Tunbridge gave away a kickable penalty Norman kicked the points to increase Charlton’s lead.

The second half saw Charlton being pressed back into their half as Tunbridge continued to try and gain something material for their efforts and it required all of Charlton’s defensive capabilities to be exhibited and it was this facet that saw “BJ” Bridges making a 60 metre break following Charlton turning the ball over deep in their own half.

Through out the match Mark English had been prominent in both defence and attack and he was to be the scorer of Charlton’s fifth try when following slick work at the base of as scrum he received the ball and his mazy running took him through a number of tackles to score the try under the goal posts to assist Norman’s subsequent conversion.

Charlton exploited a mistake by Tunbridge to score their sixth try of the game when following a clearance kick down the centre of the field Saunderson ran the ball back at Tunbridge and when he was tackled just inside Charlton’s half swift transference of the ball saw it reach Rabye and his speed of foot outstripped the visitors’ defence and allowed him to score his second try of the match. Once again Norman added the conversion to take his personal points tally to 14 points for the match.

To Tunbridge’s credit despite seeking to turn overran almost unassailable lead they continued to pressurise Charlton who began to give away penalties. Tunbridge almost scored a try but were adjudged to have knocked on in the act of grounding the ball but were rewarded finally when following a series of driving plays a cross field kick breached the advancing Charlton defensive line and the visitors’ won the race to touch the ball down for a try that was subsequently converted.

Next Saturday Charlton visit Deal & Bettshanger Lions, who sit in third place in the league only two points behind and who up to last Saturday had been unbeaten until losing narrowly to Old Colfeians Kick off 2.30pm.

By Roe Belcher
Tunbridge Well’s View of The Match:

Tunbridge Wells travelled to Charlton Park for what is traditionally a tough encounter.

The hosts’ Broad Walk ground is a tough place for visitors to get a result and sadly the journey coincided with Wells’ worst half of rugby in some time in the first period. A much improved second half gave the coaching squad something to work with but this was a disappointing day at the office for the team from St Marks.

After the resolute home win against Old Colfeians the previous week, Wells started with an unchanged back line but there were several changes up front. Richard Flisik returned at hooker after some excellent 2nd XV performances and skipper Andy Burgess returned from injury. With Mark Davey on international Maltese duty, Matt Cook made his first start at number 8 before himself departing to play for Spain. Jake Thompson also stepped up to the bench whilst 17 year old Academy player Chaz Spence was in the wings awaiting his first ‘cap’.

The hosts had the advantage of a strong, swirling, wind in the first period and immediately put the visitors under pressure and it needed two penalties awarded by the excellent referee to help Wells relive the pressure. This was to be short-lived though as Wells failed to deal with a defensive clearance and swift transfer of the loose ball found the electric home wing Reion Rabye in space to cross for an unconverted try on 7 minutes. Almost immediately the impressive home team full back put Charlton Park back on the attack with his first of a series of good runs and eventually home outside half Thor Norman slotted a penalty for an 8-0 lead.

Wells then enjoyed their best period of a very disappointing first half.James Lineham broke free form a maul for a 25 metre sprint before being held up on the line. From the ensuing scrum the hosts offended at a ruck in stopping a Tom Claridge run and Luke Giles slotted over the penalty. 8-3 after 20 minutes. What Wells now needed was some possession but sadly it was not to be. Missed tackles and failed kicks to touch handed momentum back to Park and they are a strong enough unit to take advantage of such opportunities. Wells also lost the experienced Billy Harvey to what looks like a serious knee injury and his replacement Tim Collins was immediately under pressure with the rest of the Wells scrum. It was to their credit that the scrum bounced back well in the second half. Sadly, the line-out misfired all day.

After a kick to touch and a series of good drives scrum half Will Robertson touched down for the hosts with Norman getting the conversion; then, after another Rabye break, it was Rob Saunderson’s turn to burrow over from close range. Finally, on the stroke of half-time Sam Baker took a fine line to break through three tackles and score at the posts, which with Norman’s conversion made it 27-3 at the interval.

Although Wells had the benefit of the wind in the second period it had notably dropped in its intensity. Sadly, Charlton Park were no less intense. Matt Cook got into the game more for Wells but the home team’s defence remained resolute. A couple of penalty kicks failed to find touch for the visitors but this was an improved effort. Indeed, it was against the run of play when Norman added a penalty on the hour. By now Chaz Spence was on at scrum half for what was to be a very impressive debut. He brought more urgency to the Wells back line, helped as the game opened up more for both teams. However, both sides were guilty of basic errors which meant there was no more scoring until the 67th minute when centre Mark English weaved his way through the Wells defence to score for the home team. Norman converted. 37-3.

Wells continued to play for pride and were unfortunate when another good attack saw a loose ball picked up Rabye who showed a clear pair of heels to the defence from 50 metres out to cross for his second try, again converted by Norman. Wells were not to be denied in their search for a consolation score though. After Spence was unluckily adjudged to have knocked on in the act of grounding, and a good chance just eluded Eddie Croft, it was Croft who got on the end of a cross-field kick from Giles for the final try of the game, converted by Giles.

Wells’ season of consolidation will not be shaped by how they perform against the likes of Charlton Park and Maidstone (the visitors to St Marks this week at 2.30) who will be in contention for top honours. However, if they are not to lose the early competitive momentum they have been building thus far then the squad and coaches need to re-group and show more resolution than was on display in the first 40 minutes last week. The second half showed positive signs that they are up for the challenge though.