Two tries from Ross Sidebottom, with one from Luke Boyns and a penalty try gave Charlton Park a big win in this top-of-the-table clash on Saturday at Broad Walk. However, the five points gained by the fourth try were not enough to completely overcome the gap in league status and Hove stay in second place by the narrowest of margins thanks to their losing bonus point.

Before the game we wondered which Charlton Park team would turn up. With a few injuries still being nursed from the hard-fought win at Norwich the weather break last week did the club something of a favour, but there were still a few injuries and minds could well have been on next week. For the first twenty minutes this seemed to be the case, but once they had got into the game Park put the pressure on, and it saw them through to a highly creditable win over a talented and motivated Hove team.

The visitors came out of the blocks the fastest and with a penalty given against Park fringing, and then a converted try after some slick handling by their talented back line, they led 10-0. At which point Mark English’s somewhat harsh yellow card added to the gloom. However, to their great credit this made Charlton raise their game and a wonderful try put them back in the game. It came from a couple of quick recyclings and then a pass out the back in midfield. Ross Sidebottom just held the pass and then managed to slip the ball to Chris Bristow who drew the last defender before sending him racing in under the posts.

Reion Raybe had an attempt disallowed before English returned and a series of attacks led to Luke Boyns going over in the right corner off a scrum to give the home side the lead. There then followed a harum-scarum five minutes where both teams had chances and the half finished with Hove thinking they had scored and then finding the referee had deemed it a double movement.

Charlton Park started the second half as if intent on killing the game off.  Connor McDonald kicked a fine penalty, John Beith and Mark English were creating gaps and Alan Knuckey was in control, using runners up the blindside. This led to a second try for Sidebottom, good handling putting him in in the left corner and extending the lead to 20-10. However, Hove continued to move the ball with confidence. A penalty reduced the arrears while a similar attempt from McDonald came back off the post. Then a bounce from a clever kick into space eluded the home defence and the scores were suddenly level.

Now was the time for Park to show their mettle. After a series of moves they found themselves with a five-metre scrum. The pressure came on and after several penalties the inevitable penalty try.

Charlton Park have had some exciting wins this season and this was up there. It was a game that could easily have gone the other way – Hove are a great club and our games are always special. This time it was our turn but it only balances their home win. Good luck to them for the rest of the season. Coach Lee Amzaleg was particularly pleased that the planning in training had been put into practice, Alan Knuckey was man-of-the-match but no-one had a poor game.

Next week we welcome Camberley for the Area Final of the Intermediate Cup. As with last year the season refuses to die, although the fixture congestion caused by successes has forced us to have to drop out of the Kent Shield. It is down to a dedicated and dogged set of players and coaches