Unlike, it seems, most of our league fellow-compatriots, Charlton Park has always enjoyed the cup, and not only because of the opportunity it gives to sample playing at HQ. Closeted in the world of leagues can make you forget those outside your immediate zone, so it was nice to welcome Old Reigatian from our equivalent South-West 2 to Broad Walk. What transpired was another storming game, evenly matched until the last quarter, and an enjoyable chat and beer afterwards.
It is difficult to measure cup opponents beforehand. Clubs tend to rest any players on the edge of injury or marital break-up so the visitors’ unbeaten league record was not directly applicable. As it was Park played their third fly half and inside centre in three weeks, while Reigatian were apparently into their fourth captain of the season.
The game followed a predictable course for those acquainted with Charlton’s recent games. After the first twenty minutes this was settling into an ‘our forwards against their backs’ scenario but the pattern did not pan out quite like that. After being blown away for the first try, scored by Jeremy Montes, the visitors scrum grew more combative as the game went on, to the extent that Park were opting for line-outs near the end, when the home backs put together some of their most fluent passing of the season.
After leading 8-0, with Alan Knuckey’s penalty adding to the try, Reigatians then had the best of the first half, led by a strong driving maul and some lovely passing from 9 and 10. Their first try came from a try after Rob Saunderson, back from a month of enforced rest, was handed another ten minutes off, the conversion making it 8-7, and they finished off the half with a pick and drive to take a four-point lead.
The second half was almost all Charlton. Kicks to the corner, ball-carriers crashing it up and some unstoppable handling led to 22 unanswered points. Mark Harlow-Singh scored the first, driving over after a series of attacks to put Park back into the lead. This was followed by Ben Pritchard on the end of a fast handling move. Then, after being well-marked for most of the game, Reion Raybe was able to burst through and Saunderson juggled with the ball scoring the fourth, and finally Sam Baker was on the end of an overlap to finish it off.
The scoreline did little justice to the visitors, who were in the game until the 60th minute, but Park at last showed some of the confident attacking play that lit up last year’s cup run. There was a welcome return from Connor McDonald at fly-half, while Mark English and Ed Mason added to the lift in energy. Lee Amzaleg expressed his approval and the club chairman enquired whether I would crack a smile at any time. And Knuckey didn’t score.
We send Reigatian our best wishes for the rest of their season and hope we meet them again soon.