This was another gloomy day for Charlton Park, both metaphorically and meteorologically, as they lost once again in the final minute. It left some very hacked off players in red while Gravesend rightly celebrated their win. This season Charlton have lost five games, by 2, 2, 8, 5 and 2 There are a lot of ‘might have beens’ in there.
This time, however, they can’t claim to have been robbed. Gravesend came with a big and experienced set of forwards and dominated from the off. An underpowered Park were forced into playing skipper Terry Read at hooker,with centre John Beith (man of the match) at 7 and Jeremy Montes at 6 and carrying with his usual power.
It would be generous to say that Park had 25% of possession as the visitors dominated the line out and pressured the scrum. Charlton were fortunate that Jake Conway had a very strong game cleaning up at the back of a retreating scrum. Beith and Montes also played a big part in keeping the game under control and contesting the tackle area, and scrum half Alex Bill, playing on the wing, also put in a fine performance.
Park looked lively in the first half and had scored three tries in the first half hour, but they were not able to get the ball after the break and, despite never giving in, had to defend a narrowing lead as Gravesend scented the win.
From the offset it was clear that the visitors had a very dangerous diving maul, and their first try was the result of a 20 metre rumble. Alex Bill had put Charlton Park ahead, squeezing in at the corner after a Montes drive, and then two quick tries put them firmly in the lead.
Some lovely handling off a burgled line out saw Alex Miller give Conway the opportunity to accelerate through, and then a slick move down the blindside ended with Reion Raybe speeding away. With a penalty and a conversion from Rio Cooper the lead was 20-7, narrowed to ten by half-time. Park had chances after the break but they were slowly ground down and two Gravesend tries, the final one under the posts, were enough to seal the win.
Like their other narrow defeats, this was one that got away, but Charlton have to circle the wagons until the cavalry return. Next week there is an Intermediate Cup game, at home to Beccehamians, followed by our last awayday, this time to Dover, and the first half of the season ends with the visit of Colfeians and the Christmas VP lunch.