Fly-half Rio Cooper’s two late penalties pushed Charlton Park to a narrow win over their rivals from just down the road to end the first half of season slightly in credit in wins and losses. Neither kick was easy considering the swirling wind but he struck them both cleanly through the uprights to seal a victory which did not look remotely on the cards twenty minutes previously when they had been 19 – 7 down.

It was the usual tight local derby but without some of the needle of previous years. Both sides were suffering absences, and Park’s were made more acute with the losses to injury of scrum half Alex Bill and then tryscorer Jeremy Montes at half-time, and to two further yellow cards, but this forced the hand of coach Lee Amzaleg whose introduction at scrum half had a dramatic effect.

In a first half notable mainly for the number of errors from each team Charlton led 7 – 5. They had scorned two opportunities in the first five minutes when final passes went down, the second after Reion Raybe had burst through on a 70-yard run.  The visitors then went ahead when their mighty line-out drive smashed over and just before the half Montes broke a tackle and sailed through some uncertain tackling.

Two tries, both originating from the slick Colfes line-out and featuring some heavy rumbling from their pack seemed to have put an end to Charlton Park’s hopes. But from then on the home side, buoyed by the increasing dominance in the scrum, began to gain in confidence as the forwards took control. They camped on the line and captain talisman Terry Read drove over, Cooper’s conversion reducing the arrears to one score. Then Amzaleg spotted a gap next to the ruck and burst away. He was hauled down but Jake Conway, as always, was on the scene to dive over. Cue excitement at last.

Now Charlton were fielding kick offs and keeping possession. Cooper’s first penalty put them ahead, and then they did exactly the same until the second one came in the last minute. It was a close-run thing, littered with mistakes and yellow cards for both sides, but Park kept the ball as Colfes tired and dominated the last quarter. As in most games like this it was the forwards who won it, and it was the leaders who led and scored but a vast amount of credit must go to the players who were thrust in during the week and did their jobs.

We now have a break until 4th January when we play Old Cranleighans away in round 3 of the Intermediate Cup, followed by Beccehamians away on the 11th. It was a good day for the club, with 90 for lunch, and the refs of both games stayed late, and for those who complain that we don’t sing anymore, well, we did, very nicely although too late on for any but the hardcore!

I should like to wish everyone at Charlton Park, and our friends and opponents, a very happy Christmas and New Year.