It was as if Charlton Park had something to prove after last week’s stuttering performance at Aylesford, and they certainly turned on the style in the first half in front of the Christmas lunch crowd. After five tries and 31 points the second half reverted to the prosaic as Dover fought back stubbornly with the influential Martyn Beaumont moving from full back to fly half to orchestrate things.
Park’s conductor was man-of-the-match Alan Knuckey, but it was the pace and power all round the team that harmonised. After a Terry Read drive from a line-out led to an early seven-point lead, Park then went on to score four sumptuous tries which started in their own half with passing and support play that defied the wet and made a mockery of last week’s slipping and sliding.
Knuckey scored the second. Tommy Nightingale made a break down the middle and he was alongside to take the offload and run in the final 20 yards. Then we had two from Jock Conway. His uncanny ability to be there to finish off moves is becoming a feature of the season so far. The first came after Park had explored the blindside once, then tried again and Rob Saunderson was able to burst through the gap and draw the cover defence.
His second was better still, managing to keep up with a Reion Raybe at full speed after some lovely midfield passing before just holding off the chasers.
The last try of the half was the best of the lot, starting way back and then moving left and then right with some perfect passing at speed finding Jack Hudson in an open field to finish it off in style.
Charlton Park also scored the next two tries. Tommy Nightingale kicked a loose ball through and then was able to manipulate the bouncing ball over the line away from the covering defenders. Then the forwards pushed over, having missed out at the first attempt, and Saunderson, now at number 8, touched down. Dover came more into the game as it went on and thoroughly deserved their one try – they could have had at least one more.
Horsham’s defeat to our next opponents means we are now 2nd, whether we want to be or not, but there are absences for next week so the ultra-local derby at Colfeians will be a biggee.
The day was adorned by the now traditional annual coachload of Dover supporters out for the day in the big city. It is rugby as it should be and we love them for it. In addition there was a gathering of ex and very ex-players, with Tony Corney presenting the club with a framed photo of his team from the fifties, and always welcome visits from Carol Robjohns and Henry. Their generous support of the club is lovely.
The first half of the season is now done. We started with some hard games, were lucky to get away with a draw with Beckenham and a win over Thanet, but after six straight wins and lots of tries we go into the New Year with confidence. Next week it’s Colfeians away.
Photos are courtesy of Jack Adams justjackphotography.com