Once again it was raining on Saturday afternoon after a week of perfect autumnal weather; not the floods of last week but still a cold, sodden drizzle which seeped into the hands and minds of the players. So, despite a scrappy display Charlton Park can be relatively satisfied with a bonus point victory over a determined Maidstone side who did not play like a team anchored at the bottom of the league.
Park scored five tries in all, all from the back row, all from close range. Combative defence and aggressive play at the break-down from the visitors forced Park into errors, caused to a great extent by not clearing the tackle area quickly enough, but they adapted well, playing to their strengths under the conditions. The scrum was its usual self and the line outs were better than OK and with some solid tackling Charlton Park were rarely under any defensive pressure bar a period at the beginning of the second half, so they determined to play in their opponents half and once camped on the line to come away with a score.
Jake Conway set them on the way, wriggling over after scrum pressure, and then Nick Aston added to the score after a break through and lovely slip pass from Mark Harlow-Singh. With Rio Cooper’s conversion it was 12-0 at half-time. Again it took some time to get going after the break until Jeremy Montes finished off a simple move down the blind-side from Terry Read’s pass after the defence had been drawn in by Ally McQuitty’s burst. Conway burrowed over for his second by the posts and two late cards left the visitors unable to prevent Nick Aston kicking ahead to score.
It was not until late in the game that we were able to see the potential attacking threat offered by the Charlton Park backs, but they are going to need quicker and cleaner (drier) ball. McQuitty was man of the match, although Harlow-Singh and the back row must have been in the reckoning. The solidity of the front row, the boots of Alex Miller and Rio Cooper and the following-up were also necessary on a day like this.
Congratulations to the 3rds, who managed a fine win at Beckenham, and 4ths, who drew in a breathless game with Dartfordians (and lent them some players). Thanks to the hard work done at selection and captaincy and some success with recruitment there might come a day soon when Park returns to putting four teams out again on a Saturday. Blackheath Ladies appear to be revelling in playing at Broad Walk, beating Hove 34-5 last Sunday to extend their lead at the top of the league.
Next Saturday it is a return to some old friends when the 1sts trek down to Crowborough for their fifth long awayday.