‘There’s a breathless hush in the Close tonight -‘ (Sir Henry Newbolt)
We are in the tenth minute of added-on time, Charlton Park lead 20-14 but have had Jake Conway yellow carded and are once again re-enacting Rorke’s Drift, hanging on for grim death against waves of attack. Letchworth have run a series of penalties and at last score a try in the far right hand corner – miles from the posts but the match to win. Lewis Waters, the visitors’ full back, has converted both their other tries from touch. From the moment it leaves his boot it is on a Nasa flightpath straight towards the middle of the posts. It is a wonderful kick, there is no more time, and Letchworth have done to Charlton Park what they have done to teams this season.
What else is there to say. On a summer day in February Charlton Park and Letchworth Garden City from London League North West 2 served up an enthralling if error-strewn match. It couldn’t have been more evenly balanced, two strong-scrummaging but relatively lightweight packs and some sharp backs, three tries each, 13-14 at half-time. Sadly for Park, it all seemed to come down to kicking. While Waters sent over three soaring conversions, all from touch, the home side contrived to miss four, two penalties and two conversions, from much closer in. But that wasn’t the whole story. Under pressure the home team gave away penalties at crucial times and Letchworth had the nerve and ability to take advantage. Games are not lost and won by one man alone.
Park started well and Tommy Nightingale’s penalty gave them an early lead but Letchworth seized the game and by the middle of the half they were leading 14-3. The first try came from number 8 Sean Flatman with a quick pick up from a five metre scrum, and the second from winger Arun Johal from a long pass. Park forced themselves back into the game. Jake Conway finished off a period of pressure and then Alan Knuckey, playing at full-back, dummied his way through. Sadly neither was converted, and a penalty a little later was also missed. With consequences.
In the second half Jeremy Montes broke through to put Park ahead, this time with the conversion, and they had chances to score again before Waters had his moment. Park played a bit too much sevens, and needed others to support Ally McQuitty and Terry Read’s sterling ball-carrying – the arrival of Dave McGuigan was promising! It was hard on Luke Boyns, a back row by trade who, after a good game last week in the second row had to step in this time at centre after John Beith was stranded by Ryanair in Dublin. Versatility isn’t always a good thing. However, as I have said many times, the amateur game is in good fettle if this was anything to go by.
One of the delights of cup competitions is that it gives a chance for clubs to meet who in league rugby wouldn’t. Letchworth were worthy winners and stayed to celebrate it and watch the international. We enjoyed their company and wish them the best in the next round, which will be against Colfes after their hammering of Gravesend. And thanks also to referee Mr Ainsworth-Taylor and his assistants who also stayed for the England-Wales game.
Next week we are at home again to our mates from Heathfield & Waldron, needing to get this result out of the system.