Charlton Park overcame the loss of a player to a red card in the first half to record a handsome four-try win over their local rivals at Broad Walk on Saturday. In the second half they led 22-0 and 29-7 before their lungs gave out and Dartfordians came back with two late tries, both superbly converted.
From Park’s point of view this went against the normal game-plan. Despite being convincingly out-scrummaged their line-out functioned well and they were able to pressure their opponents into errors, particularly in midfield, which the speedy home backs then pounced on. All four tries came with pace, with a brace from Reion Raybe and one each from Enele Ligairi and Bruce Tuikova.
The first half was cagey. A Joe Simpson penalty put Charlton ahead and Ligairi followed up with a try in the right corner after some clever passing drew the defenders. The sending off came after about half an hour and was followed after the break by a head injury to Loqorio Waqanidrola who had been having a storming game at number 8, so Park had to carry out a serious reshuffle.
Rather than backing into a defensive mood, however, the home side sensed that they could create things from Darts’ mistakes. A loose ball from a scrum was scooped up, Freddie Naitaka attacked the line and slipped a pass to Raybe who swerved past the defence and accelerated under the posts. Despite the 14 men Charlton were now in the mood. A fabulous ruck drove Darts off their own ball and Tommy Nightingale was an inch away from finishing off a series of forward drives. Then some serious defence from Jack Hudson and Naitaki released the ball and a pop pass sent Tuikova away under the posts.
Dartfordians showed their forward power with a try from a driving maul which splintered a Park defence which had stood up well until then, but soon afterwards the ball was lost in the tackle, kicked through and Raybe was first to ground it. At 29-7 the game seemed over but the visitors refused to back down and with the eighty minutes up those two tries gave the score a closer feel.
There is no doubt that Darts are a better side than they showed today. They have their usual power-pack and clearly their backs will not have the off-day they had. Charlton Park, on the other hand, have had a real revitalisation from their army debutants and can only improve as they get more used to 15-a-side and English styles.
The match was played in front of a large crowd in the memory of Tony Penfold, captain from the 1980s, who would have delighted in the performance also of the 2nds who had a 41-15 win over Colfeians 2nds.
And, furthermore, thanks to both our visiting teams for leaving their changing rooms in such a tidy condition. Much appreciated, and a lesson to all.