1 MARCH 2014

In a game where both sides had superiority for a half it was a twenty two points scoring spree in the first half, including two tries for number eight Rob Saunderson and nine points from full back from Tom Coad, that proved to be decisive enabling Charlton to maintain their winning run of games and slightly open their lead at the head of the league.

The opening minutes of the game saw Charlton’s recent inactivity from match play almost cost them dearly as they failed to control the kick off and be penned deep in their own twenty two metre area by a Deal side who the previous week had a game. At the first scrum there appeared to Charlton’s supporters worrying signs that heir normally reliable scrummage was under pressure from the physically smaller Deal forwards and to compound the home side’s troubles a penalty was awarded to Deal which fortunately for Charlton missed.

Having suffered a near miss seemed to settle Charlton’s nerves and they started to put form into their play. It was a combination of good forward and back play that illustrated their strengths when from a line out the ball was released and taken forward with a sweeping handling move that saw Charlton advance deep into Deal’s half and the final reverse popped pass from Ben Chappell found Coad entering the line to score the try and subsequently kicking the conversions to extend the lead.

With a lead Charlton began to show why they are enjoying a run of form as they began to make inroads into the Deal half with the forwards driving well through Mark Harlow-Singh and Terry Read, putting his initial problems at the scrum behind him, to the fore and with a supply of good quality possession Charlton’s backs showed glimpses of their true potential.

It was following the award of a penalty close to the Deal goal line that saw the lead extended when Saunderson quickly tapped the ball and drove forward enabling him to touch the ball down for Charlton’s second try of the match.

Although being pressurised Deal were rewarded for their efforts when following a sweeping move they once again forced Charlton deep into their twenty two metre area and into giving away a string of penalties for offences in open play. Having failed to catch and drive against Charlton’s organised defence Deal posted their first points of the game with a well struck kick.

Charlton, from the restart kick almost extended their lead after good restart play and an initial drive from Saunderson lead to a slick interchange of passes had put “BJ” Bridges into space but he was hauled down close to the try line by the retreating Deal defence, after he had chased his chip down field.

It was another quickly taken tapped penalty, allied with good footwork, from Saunderson that saw him extended Charlton’s lead when he jinked his way through a retreating Deal defence to score the third try of the half which was converted by Coad to give Charlton a well merited lead.

Despite holding the lead Charlton seemed to relax slightly and their precise passing of the opening thirty minutes seemed to deteriorate with the ball not going to hand and it required good handling from Coad and fly half Thor Normann that saw them  catching the ball off their toes to clear two potential attacking opportunities for Deal.

Charlton continued to press as they tried to score their fourth try to gain a bonus point, and despite good running from Charlton’s backs including a thirty metre dash from Reion Rabye they were unsuccessful although  they gained some recompense with a penalty from Coad, awarded after a break into the Deal half.

The second half started well for Charlton as they went in search of the elusive fourth try but this was to be one of the last times they would be in the ascendency as they started to drop off tackles and give away penalties as Deal raised the intensity of their play and pinned Charlton back into their half.

It was a well organised catch and drive from a lineout that saw Deal open the scoring for the second half with a converted try and then kick a second penalty to begin to put doubts in Charlton’s mind set.

Following tactical substitutions by Andy Miller, Charlton began to put an element of stability into their play and following a break from Mark English aided by Chappell Charlton were awarded a penalty and Read made a pragmatic decision to settle the home team’s nerves with a kick at the goal posts and Coad duly obliged with the subsequent kick.

Despite the set back to their play Deal continued to press and they enjoyed a substantial dominance in both field position and possession as they tried to narrow the deficit. Charlton, in the closing minutes of the game created an opportunity to score the elusive fourth try when following them turning the ball over at the breakdown and advancing forty metres up field Normann’s cross field kick was knocked on by Bridges with the try line at his mercy.

Next Saturday Charlton visit Sevenoaks who are having a mixed season but beat Charlton just before Christmas in the Intermediate Cup kick off 3.00pm.

By Roe Belcher