This was a slow-burner; a strangely quiet first half for a local derby characterised in the past by some feisty action exploded in the second half to finish on a note of high drama. It was also a personal triumph for Alan Knuckey who surpassed some of his deeds of last season by scoring all four tries in that second half. It is fortunate that he is such a self-effacing man or we will never hear the last of it.
Before the game, and after the vice-presidents had had their lunch, there was a minute’s silence in memory of Calvin Taylor, man of Charlton Park, who sadly passed away in August. Then for half an hour Park had the better of the game without really threatening and without winning any of their own line outs. Then came a series of what-ifs. First Region Raybe burst through and appeared to be impeded, then Park might have been first onto the loose ball behind the posts. Then Beckenham seemed to have scored but were penalised for crossing. Finally, in the fifth minute of injury time a try under the posts after some sustained pressure, followed almost immediately by a good long penalty from Tom Amzaleg made it 3-7 at half-time.
Charlton stayed on the pitch for half-time and it seemed to have a beneficial effect as they pinned their visitors back, refreshed by the reappearance of Terry Read from a yellow card seemingly hours ago. At last a line out was won, and from the subsequent drive Alan Knuckey dived in from close-range. The scrum was getting on top and the ball-carriers led by Mark Harlow-Singh were marching forward. Beckenham, under pressure, overthrew a line-out and Knuckey was round the back for his second. Following another big scrum Knuckey sneaked over for his hat-trick and finally, after a maze run from Jeremy Montes guess who was on hand for the bonus point score, at last converted to give Park a 25 -7 lead. Surely game all over with only nine minutes left.
Beckenham, with nothing to lose, started to fling the ball around. They pulled back a try, followed almost immediately by another from James Cleverly under the posts. Then followed a nail-biting ten minutes of extra-time as Beckenham threw everything at a rapidly dwindling Park defence as desperate tackles led to yellow cards. Eventually, as midnight approached, the whistle went. A genuine thriller, although not, if truth be told, of a particularly high standard. Both sides have been badly affected by injury and Charlton were thrilled to get the full five points.
All played well, but obviously the pack’s dominance was the decisive factor. An untried back-row covered the field throughout, and then there was Alan Knuckey, who seemed irrepressible.
Our best wishes go to Beckenham who played their part in the game, and we wish them well for the rest of the season.