Charlton Park built a lead, lost it and then forced the win in the last minute to keep their 100% league record, although the lack of the bonus point means that Gravesend have taken over at the top.
With under ten minutes left Park found themselves behind to a Crowborough side which had gained in confidence as the game went on and which was threatening a famous away win. Strong tackling and increasing dominance over the ball had gradually nullified Charlton’s ball carrying and their confidence was ebbing away.
However the home side pulled themselves together to conjure a barnstorming finish initiated by the courage of returning to the game-plan. A series of quick passing phases from back inside their half led to a series of scrums in the right-hand corner. Park piled the pressure on, Crowborough resisted heroically, but it seemed inevitable that the dam would finally burst and it came on the other side of the field from Tommy Nightingale after the home backs moved the ball away from the forwards. Nightingale’s superb conversion from touch applied the coup-de-grace.
A rash of absences meant the home side welcomed back Alan Knuckey to the fold at fly-half and his penalty opened the scoring, but Crowborough showed their intent with a driving try. For much of the first half Park then dominated, with two unconverted tries, but a series of near misses caused as much by rushing and carelessness meant that they were never really in control. Ben Monsey scored his first try for the club after a big scrum, and Enele Ligairi’s break led to Vaki Antoniou adding the second (you can just see him!).
After half-time Park had chances but two Crowborough tries, both simple run-ins for scrum half and winger, and a conversion, put them 17-13 ahead. Charlton Park’s heads were down but their regathering of spirit/fear of losing galvanised the team and the final bombardment, led once again by the front row and man-of-the-match Ben Monsey (given for being “all over the place” but also for one sledgehammer tackle) was a reminder of the ability and character in the team when they seem under the cosh.