Charlton Park’s season continued its rehabilitation with an ultimately convincing win at home to Twickenham on Saturday at Broad Walk, although in keeping with most of Park’s games this year it followed the pattern of first-half frailty and second-half recovery.
It is rare, even in the days of the leagues, for two teams to face each other with very little knowledge of what to expect other than through the clubs’ rumour-mill. There are records of matches between the clubs in the nineteenth century and possibly in the 50s, but none recently.
Park started the brighter and were soon 10-0 up, a simple Thor Normann penalty followed by a pushover try credited to Rob Saunderson after Normann and Reion Raybe ran back a loose kick, and Mick Casizzi almost scored from his grubber kick to the corner.
Twickenham were quickly stung into action, however, and some electric back play led to three quick tries. After 18 minutes Twickenham scrum half broke away and there was a big overlap in the right corner. Soon after they took the lead when their backs took advantage of some alarming space to run in a converted try from their number 7, and this was followed by a further score directly from the kick-off when Park lost possession and the ball was moved at speed through several pairs of hands for another exciting try.
At 10-17 things looked black for Park, but they were now to score the next 30 points on the bounce. They pinned their opponents back in their 22 and were unlucky to have a second Saunderson try disallowed by the referee for running too close to a player lying injured. The resulting scrum, however, led to a converted penalty try to level the scores, and Normann put Park ahead right on half-time with a well-struck penalty from 35 yards.
The home side started the second half in the same vein, putting Twickenham under immense pressure, and nearly scored on several occasions before Casizzi forced his way over in the corner. Normann then increased the lead to 11 points with a simple penalty after the defending side infringed at a ruck.
Park then had to make several reshuffles due to injuries to Ben Pritchard, Normann and Raybe but were now threatening to score whenever they had the ball. After a scrum on halfway Lee Amzaleg attacked the blindside at pace and quick hands and strong running led to Park’s bonus point try by Ben Chappell. Directly from the kick-off a strong run from debutant Richard Bryan, recycled by Kevin Badger, and moved through the hands led to Mark English following up a kick through for the fifth, converted by Tommy Nightingale to give the hosts a commanding 40-17 lead. Twickenham had the final say, however, getting a four-try bonus themselves in the last minute.
There were still as many minuses as plusses in Charlton Park’s performance. Despite the strong running exemplified by man-of-the-match Luke Boyns in the back row, there were still too many flimsy tackles, particularly in the first half. Director of Rugby Andy Miller was able to smile at the end, but admitted there is still much to do. A further plus point was the strong performances of new arrivals Bryan and Chris Wood.