Spread the word; Charlton Park home games are worth watching. If the eleven-try-fest win over Colfeians was good, the ending of this match topped it. With the eighty minutes up, and the home side 20-8 down, a defeat seemed inevitable, but no…
Beckenham, arriving as top of the league, unbeaten and confident, had bossed the first half and, although the joints were beginning to creak, looked home and hosed; Park were getting more of the ball and moving it, often perilously, and sometimes risk gets reward. Their ball-carriers were carrying more and there were hints of gaps. Suddenly one opened, Jake Conway was through on halfway and his deliciously delayed pass sent Tommy Nightingale clear from thirty yards under the posts. His conversion brought the bonus point, but there was time for the kick off and multiple stages of off-loading and rucks eventually and amazingly left Ed Mason free on the right to run in the try that levelled the scores. What a finish.
It was certainly a game of two halves. For the first part Beckenham hardly allowed Charlton a look-in, with their man-of-the-match Hans Laud-Anderson seemingly over every loose ball and their backs finding space down the middle. A penalty apiece kept Park level for twenty minutes, but the tide turned when home number seven Jake Conway was yellow-carded and the visitors took control. Slick passing put winger Liam Greene into the corner and fly-half Louis Richards converted from touch, and almost immediately Park missed touch in the corner and then had a kick charged down for Richards to score again under the posts. A further penalty made it 3-20 at half-time.
Charlton Park were clearly a different team after the break, reinforced by the return of Conway and with the scrum and ball-carriers finally putting Beckenham under pressure. Coach’s man-of-the-match Rob Saunderson’s try from a driving maul made it 8-20, and Knuckey had a try disallowed for a forward pass while Richards missed an eminently kickable penalty to extend Beckenham’s lead. The siege was on.
It was hard not to feel for Beckenham who probably thought that was two points thrown away, Park had a chance for an improbable win but the conversion went wide. All in all a very good if nail-biting way to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon. Congratulations to both teams for providing such a fantastic game, played in a great spirit, and of course particularly to the much changed Charlton Park team for a scarcely believable comeback.
Next week it’s Horsham away. Phew.