How do you judge a match like this? Six tries apiece, with two in injury time – an addition to Charlton Park’s frenetic home escapades, all done in the cause of amateur rugby players enjoying their day, or another example of cavalier defending and passing? Surprisingly enough considering the eventual scoreline, I put it down to Horsham’s defence in the first half, which pressured Park out of their confident start and forced the mistakes which would put the home side so far behind they had to throw caution to the wind.
The visitors’ game plan was to disrupt the Charlton scrum and be as close as possible to offside in midfield and it worked to perfection in the first half, forcing them into lateral passing and mistakes. In the second half, as so often happens, Charlton broke through in midfield, possibly as Horsham’s defence tired, and the scores started to come, albeit too late.
After twenty minutes this had nil-all-draw all over it. Park nearly scored, sparked by Ben McMullan at scrum-half, and generally had the best of possession and territory. But Horsham were dangerous and it was some brave Park defence that kept out the first burst from their threatening left winger. However, a try seemed inevitable as the big forwards battered the line and a quick pass to the left put in the winger. Worse, from Park’s view was to follow. Two quick tries – a strong burst through a tackle and the interception that was always on the cards suddenly gave them a 19-0 lead, narrowed by five by Terry Read’s try from a maul.
Charlton Park desperately needed a morale-boosting start to the second half but it didn’t happen. From the kick off the ball evaded the chasers and bounced into the hands of their impressive 7 whose burst created space and the left winger scored again, widening the gap to 21 points. Now the home side raised themselves, Jake Conway finishing off a flowing move after Reion Raybe, Josh McMullan, and Jeremy Montes had attacked across field from a missed touch and Connor McDonald converting beautifully.
Now, rather than spinning it wide, man-of-the-match Terry Read, Beau Stanford-Francis and Ally McQuitty were carrying the ball through the middle. Another attack just fell as the ball was dropped, but Raybe then produced one of his stunners, finding some sort of space on a postage stamp by the right-hand touch and then accelerating through everyone. Game on, but Park had to keep taking risks and Horsham were onto them, scoring again under the posts.
Last five minutes. A clever kick into the corner from Knuckey led to Saunderson scoring his second from a line-out drive, followed immediately by Park’s try of the match. Ball retention put Nick Aston away on the right on halfway. He kept going and going until offloading to Knuckey and then Saunderson for the try. Four points in it and a famous comeback on the cards. Charlton Park tried to open up again in the 22 and Horsham pounced on a loose ball and went under the posts. Still time, however, for Saunderson to grab his third try of the second half, running a quick tap penalty through unopposed.
The players don’t need to beat themselves up too much about this. Live by the sword, and all that… This is a competitive league, as our last two results show. We did not play badly but we did make expensive mistakes. There were too many missed tackles and we were put under pressure from an impressive and organised Horsham side. Once the scrum was sorted out and we got onto the front foot we displayed some lovely ball-handling.
Our congratulations go to Horsham. Next week we’ve got Old Reigatian at home in the Intermediate Cup, which will be followed by Ireland – England on the box. Come and enjoy another good day at the pleasure dome.
Photos are by Just Jack Photography.