After last week’s golden autumn this was the beginning of winter. The floodlights were on from the beginning and there was a definite air of gloom about despite the efforts of both sides. In the end the score shows a handsome win for Charlton Park, but that did not reflect the balance of a tightly contested match and did scant justice to Deal who probably had the man of the match in full back Luke Armstrong.

Both sides managed to transgress in the eyes of the referee and there were six yellow cards handed out – four of them to the home team, who found themselves playing with thirteen men for a period in the second half. This had the effect of breaking up the game and there were periods of time when the whistle won, although there was a conspicuous lack of niggle. Park had to be grateful to new dad Alan Knuckey and his goalkicking to keep their noses in front until the cavalry returned and they did what they have been doing all season and added 17 points in the last ten minutes to finish off the game and take the bonus point.

After 20 minutes Charlton led 6-3. Deal were intent on attacking through their 15 and his strong running caused problems all afternoon. This led to their first points although for most of the game it was the accuracy of Knuckey’s kicking against the waywardness of the visiting kicker and Park were ahead before some powerful running led to a try in the left corner from hooker Ed Mason. After Armstrong had scored his first try to narrow the lead Mason went over again in the same place and Knuckey converted with aplomb from the touchline. Just before half-time strong running up the middle from Sam Baker and some quick recycling enabled captain Rob Saunderson to burst onto a flat pass for a clear run-in under the posts.

The second half was tricky for Charlton as they were unable to keep the penalty and yellow card count down and two tries brought Deal back to within 7 points. A welcome penalty from Knuckey eased home nerves and they were fully settled by late tries from Terry Read after Mason had again carried strongly and then the best of the afternoon after a burst down the left from Reion Raybe and quick passing led to the ubiquitous Knuckey feeding Ross Sidebottom to dive in alongside the posts.

Park are winning again and are back to playing their style of rugby, although no-one could say this was a flawless display. The line-out is a bit of a cause for concern. Ben Pritchard was man-of-the-match for a tireless performance, but Deal demonstrated that this is a very competitive league. We enjoyed them and their supporters and look forward to our return trip down the M2.

Next week it’s 2nd v 3rd at Hove, followed by Twickenham at home for the second year running in the next round of the Intermediate Cup.