In summarising Charlton’s performance in this match, paraphrasing the Jazz classic “What A Difference a Week Makes” springs to mind. Following their performance against Heathfield last Saturday, this cup tie saw Charlton back to almost their best as they ran in seven tries to beat a Portsmouth side that played for the whole eighty minutes of the game.
The opening plays did not look promising for Charlton as following them kicking off Portsmouth pinned them back deep into their twenty-two-metre area where several opportunities to open the scoring were presented to the visitors. Luckily for Charlton a combination of wrong options, errors and a missed penalty kick from Portsmouth meant that the scores remained level and gave Charlton a moment to regather their composure.
Having survived the opening five minutes Portsmouth blitz of play the fielding of the ball in midfield and a long pass by Tom Amzaleg, making a welcome return, was the catalyst for Charlton to open the scoring and start to play to their full potential. Amzaleg’s pass was taken by Jeremy Montes moving at speed and following his direct run the pass out of the tackle was gratefully accepted by Ben Pritchard, running in support to dive over and score the opening try of the match.
Unlike previous weeks Charlton’s were playing off a solid basis provided by their forwards and it was following a lineout and several phases of driving forward play an astute grubber kick from Alan Knuckey saw Tshepo Mooki in pursuit and he was able to regather and touch the ball down for Charlton’s second try and thereby opening a ten-point lead after quarter of the match.
Charlton’s confidence began to rise and with Charlton’s scrum proving to help create a combination of pressure on Portsmouth and the opportunities to take the ball deep into the Portsmouth half. It was at a lineout that saw Portsmouth lose control of the ball and another player making a welcome return after injury, Gregory Heloir, was quickest to react and a touch of savour faire touched the ball down for Charlton’s third try. Amzaleg, having missed the first two conversion attempts, calibrated his kicking to allow for a swirling wind, and added the two extra points to extend the lead to seventeen.
A momentary lapse of concentration at the restart lead to a period of Portsmouth pressure that Charlton dealt with fifteen-man defence and excellent play at the break down including a try saving tackle from Mooki who was quickly to his feet to turn the ball over to calm the play down.
It was out of defence that saw Charlton score their fourth try of the first half from a defensive scrum in their own half. When following the award of a penalty they opted for territory and from the resulting lineout Harlow-Singh popped the ball to Rob Saunderson on the charge, and when he was bought down close to the try line quick recycling of the ball saw a miss pass reach Darren Chapmen lurking close to the side line and he crashed over for the try that was converted by Amzaleg.
The dying moments of the half saw Portsmouth fighting back and pressurising Charlton into giving away penalties. Moments of ill-discipline resulted allied to a careless remark Charlton were forced back into defence close to their line and a yellow card did not help matters. Portsmouth sensing that with a numerical advantage in the forwards opted for a scrum but Charlton reacted excellently by proceeding to win the ball against the feed and a kick into touch saw the half finishing.
The start of the second half was almost a mirror image of the first half with Portsmouth mounting pressure. Charlton’s attempt to run the ball out of defence and up field cost them dearly as an attempted chip and chase was charged down by Portsmouth and their right wing regathered the ball to score the visitors first try of the match.
Charlton were quick to regain their composure and began to pressurise Portsmouth and struck back quickly when following a lineout, the ball was taken through a series of driving plays before Ross McManus, who was having a fine match at the lineout, sprinted over to score Charlton’s fifth try of the match.
The result, seemly certain, Charlton continued to press but a wrong option combined with errors saw them not being able to extend their lead and the game being played in the middle third of the pitch. It was following a high tackle a quick tap and go by Tommy Nightingale saw him in space and when he was tackled Saunderson showing speed of foot to be in support was able to score the try, slightly against the run of play.
With only a quarter of the match left Portsmouth’s play went through a renaissance and they showed glimpses of why in earlier rounds they had defeated near neighbours Dartfordians and Colfeians. It was following a fine sweeping move with the ball being moved through multiple pairs of hands, that saw Portsmouth run the ball from deep in their half and deep into Charlton ‘s half. Forced into defending Charlton conceded a scrum and a following long miss pass after a good pick up Portsmouth scored their second try of the game.
Charlton compounded their problems when with only about ten minutes left they received their second yellow card of the match seemingly imploding the home side received a second yellow card. Portsmouth utilise the numerical advantage well pressurising Charlton and were rewarded with their third try of the match with only a few minutes plus injury time left.
A third yellow card saw Charlton finishing the match with a reduced number of players on the field but they did let this disadvantage cause a set-back as they scored a seventh try. Awarded a penalty Charlton opted for territory. At the ensuing lineout, McManus’ tap down was taken by scrum half Ryan Bennett whose flicked pass was accepted by Harlow- Singh and his pass out the tackle to John Beith saw Beith supplying a deft reverse pass to Mooki taking a line through the Portsmouth defence and enabling him to score his second try of the game. Amzaleg added two second half conversions to complete the scoring for Charlton.
Charlton return to league matches next week when they entertain Deal & Betteshanger at Boardwalk Kick off 3.00pm