Charlton Park played some of their most fluent rugby of the season in beating Dover, and they needed to to hold off determined opponents who refused to lie down and got a much merited losing bonus point with the last move of the game. With a quarter of an hour to go Park led 30-11 and the game seemed home and hosed, but, aided perhaps by a relaxing from the home side but mainly through their opponents spirited revival, the game’s final scoreline reflected a closer game than was probably the case.
Charlton scored four tries, three after quick handling movements and one with the trademark pushover. For most of the first half Alan Knuckey and man-of-the-match Thor Normann pinned their visitors back with clever angled kicks to the corners, although on occasions it might have been better to have looked up and recognised some mismatches and overlaps. Nevertheless, the whole team played with a freedom and speed, recycling and passing through forwards and backs.
Despite being almost under water on Thursday the pitch had dried out remarkably quickly and was ideal for running rugby and Charlton took advantage from the start. Mick Casizzi was on the end of a series of quick rucks and offloads to score the first try, and Knuckey kicked a penalty soon after to make it 8-0. Further sparkling play led to Paul Haig latching onto a clever grubber kick through from Ben Chappell to outrun the chasers in the left corner and Knuckey’s conversion from touch increased the lead to 15.
Dover were threatening when their powerful forwards set up driving mauls and Park were trundled back mercilessly on several occasions. This created field position and two relatively straightforward penalties brought the visitors back to 15-6 at half-time. Normal service resumed after the break and Neil Collins’ break after a multi-passing move put Casizzi in for his second try, and Knuckey increased the lead with a penalty soon after.
It was clear, however, that Dover were not going to lie down. Their more precarious league position meant they had a lot to play for and a try in the top corner brought them hope, although almost immediately after Park secured the bonus point through Luke Boyns’ at the back of a pushover. However, the visitors’ power game brought two more converted tries, the last on the final whistle, to leave their supporters wondering what might have been had they started quicker.
Charlton Park have now secured 16 points from their last four games, scoring 22 tries in the process, and now have their eyes on a possible sixth position in the league in their first year after promotion – something almost unthinkable after standing rock bottom with no points from their first three games. Their game has tightened up all round – line out, rucking and handling skills are much more precise – but tackling is still frail and lack of concentration often spoils promising moments.
Once again it was lovely to host a proper rugby club in Dover, with a large group of supporters clearly lured by the party atmosphere of Broad Walk and Cosmic Paddy and ready to stay into the night. Many thanks also to Acclaim Handling and David Woods for his generous sponsorship of the lunch and game and his leading of the club song before lunch!
Next week Park are away at Guildford.