The end of our first season in London One is nigh, the sun is out on Broad Walk’s still-beautiful pitch (although there’s a nasty little wind about), and sadly this is the last first team home game. Charlton Park’s remodelled style has led to some spectacular tries in recent games at home, and yesterday was no exception. Andy Miller has had a difficult week rejuggling the side to cope with a lengthy injury list but once again yesterday the team spirit shone through against a strong Gosport & Fareham side still uneasily aware that the last relegation place is still uncertain.
In the match between the two sides at Gosport before Christmas the opposing pack gave Park a hard time, and with their strongest eight available the visitors’ power up front meant that the home side were often on the back foot, particularly in driving mauls. When Charlton were able to get forward momentum, however, their quick movement of the ball and support play enabled them to take advantage of the spring conditions, much to the delight of VPs and guests, as well, of course, as the now becoming-infamous Foxon/Woods supporters’ club.
Park started in rampant style, with first Reion Raybe and then Thor Normann breaking through and with a little more calm and care in looking after the ball they would have been ahead before Neil Collins opened the scoring. Ally McQuilty made a barnstorming run, Gosport conceded a five-metre line-out, and simple passing did the rest. Following his conversion Alan Knuckey kicked a penalty to extend the lead to ten. Gosport halved the gap with a try from a series of scrums on the line when Park were put under heavy pressure.
In the second half Charlton came up with three length-of-the-field tries to make you smile. Ben Chappell turned the ball over on the 22 and released Normann who then ran seventy yards evading the lunging covering tacklers from the right and the touchline on his left to just dive over in the corner. The next try began with Raybe fielding a kick around halfway. In his own inimitable way he then managed to squirm and wriggle through tacklers and once again quick passes put Luke Boyns through beside the posts (22-5).
Finally, after Gosport had driven over from another line-out maul, it was a devastating run from Rob Saunderson containing at least three decapitating hand-offs which spread-eagled the visiting defence and Chappell scored the resulting try in the left corner.
For the first time in several years Charlton Park will experience a calm end the season. They go into next week’s match at Brighton with neither side threatening either end of the table. That cannot be said for the rest of the league, however. Another bizarre set of results means that virtually every other game next week will have clubs biting their nails, but it is at the bottom where things have suddenly become mighty tight. The third relegation place could now go to one of four teams, although realistically it will come down to Gosport (away at Hove) and Cobham and Twickenham, who meet at Cobham.
On Sunday week, 26th April Charlton Park contest the Kent Plate Final against Thanet Wanderers at Cranbrook, kick-off 2.00pm. If you would like a seat on the coach please let Dennis Miller or me know as soon as possible.