A hat-trick of tries for Jake Conway helped Charlton Park to a hard-earned bonus point win over Deal & Betteshanger on Saturday, but coach Lee Amzaleg gave the joint man-of-the-match award to centres Tommy Nightingale and Ed Mason. Harsh but fair! The same could be said for the result, Park managing to keep a spirited team at bay to the extent that Deal failed to get any league points to show for their strong display where they pulled back a twelve point deficit in the first half and then narrowed the gap to three in the second.
Charlton were unable to stamp their authority on the game for any length of time. Much of this might have been due to the cold wind and a low sun but it might also have been down to the nature of a game in which both teams seemed too anxious to move on at every opportunity. It was good for the spectators, particularly if they were unaligned, but I would suggest a bit too frenetic for the coaching teams. Nevertheless, this is the way Park play at the moment and it plugs in well to the amateur ethos – everyone wants their rugby to be a change from the day-job.
At the beginning of the season the one position we would have expected to have strength in would have been centre. However, marriage, fatherhood and injury have meant others have had to stand up. This seems to have been the making of Nightingale, giving him a new-found confidence in his running, and his partnership with Mason, a hooker and back-row by trade, was a key to the ball-carrying and pressure game that Charlton thrive on. As for Conway, he just always seems to be there.
Charlton were quickly 12-0 ahead. The men-of-the-match combined in the second minute, Nightingale’s break putting Mason in, and ten minutes later a typical Knuckey snipe and kick was followed up by Conway after Rob Saunderson had cleverly allowed the ball to run on when he was offside. Deal came back, a try in the corner by the dangerous full-back, converted from touch followed by another in the left corner.
After the break, Jake Conway scored in the corner following some good support play and a quick tap from the alert Knuckey enabled Chris Bristow to extend the lead, only for a second try under the posts to make it 22-19.
Finally, after a period of extended pressure, quick hands in a narrow space on the blindside was finished off with a deft flick from Ben Chappell to Conway to run round and Knuckey to convert.
Next week is free, but the game the following week, contrary to the Twitter report, is away at Aylesford before the second lunch of the season at home to Dover on December 8th. Book now with Chris Wheal.
Red sails in the sunset.