Two tries from a charging Jeremy Montes, who was a handful all afternoon, and others from man-of-the-match Russ Conway and Rob Saunderson on the back of a scrum, gave Charlton Park another five league points at home to Maidstone on Saturday. The visitors could consider themselves slightly unfortunate not to get something out of a game given that they scored three of their own.
The first game back after the new year is traditionally haphazard. Most clubs at level seven will have had one opportunity to train together for the three weeks since their last game; this and some unavailabilities provided some mitigation for an up-and-down performance from Charlton Park, but credit must also go to a much improved performance from their visitors, Maidstone, who, under a new coaching regime, showed that they could prove a handful to their other opponents this year.
After a forgettable first quarter Park led 10-0 thanks to a penalty from Alex Miller and the inevitable try from Conway finishing off some forward drives, but the visitors were a constant threat with their fly-half turning the ball back to hard runners up the middle and it was no surprise when they levelled the scores. Charlton reacted strongly. Montes went over on the blind side and then Saunderson added his after a crushing scrum, so suddenly Park led 22-10 at half-time.
Despite strange lapses in the scrum after the break the home team started to spin the ball across the pitch using Miller’s passing to good effect and Montes scored his second after Jack Hudson and Reion Raybe had been given space on the left. When Miller kicked a penalty to extend the lead to 32-10 it looked all over, but Park took their foot off the gas and Maidstone kept going and in the final minutes they scored two converted tries to give the match score a better reflection of the game as a whole.
It was probably a good thing that Park were given a hard game, bearing in mind they face runaway leaders Beckenham away next week, but there are issues they need to sort out. Too many tackles were missed, too many chances were butchered, and energy levels dropped near the end. But there was still evidence of the fluent interplay when they play well and the back row and backs combined well – it is nice to see Luke Boyns back from his travels and his power and ball-carrying will be needed.
So, thanks and good luck to Maidstone for the rest of the season. Next week to Beckenham, who are still unbeaten and seem uncatchable.