Charlton Park finished their season with a six try victory over Medway, the side sitting in third place in the League, and in doing so reinforced their position as champions and securing their promotion as such, the first time such an event has taken place since 1996 when they went into the National Leagues.
Played in front of an extremely large vociferous and partisan crowd Charlton suffered a near shock when an error at the kick off gave Medway an opportunity to open with a penalty but luckily for Charlton the resultant kick hit the goal posts and was retrieved by a home player.
Having suffered a shock with the near miss Charlton began to look lively with the ball being run and all players looking confident with ball in hand. Despite an initial problem at the first scrum and their lineout not functioning as well as usual they after the opening minutes they stabilised the position and established a good basis to work from.
It was following the award of a penalty that lead to Charlton opening the scoring when they opted for territorial advantage and from the ensuing line out they set up a well-orchestrated rolling maul and the drive was finished off by Sam Baker scoring the opening try which was converted by Alan Knuckey.
Medway’s response to falling behind showed why they have caused teams throughout the League problems all season as they increased their tempo of play and Charlton’s defensive capabilities were given a severe examination and it required, at times desperate play to nullify the threat created by the visitors direct playing style.
Having weathered the Medway onslaught Charlton increased their lead with a successful penalty kick from Knuckey but immediately allowed Medway back into the game when at the following restart they failed to deal effectively with a ball that bounced and gave away a penalty. Medway’s kicker, having missed with his opening kick of the match made no mistake the second time with a well-judged long range kick and thereby giving Charlton a warning that they could not afford to give away penalties in their own half.
Despite suffering occasional problems at the scrum Charlton’s play began to show why they have enjoyed such a successful season with both backs and forwards looking comfortable on the ball and bringing into play Charlton’s speedy backs into play with Thor Normann, Reion Rabye and “Cyril” Coad Junior making telling runs.
Once again it was good play at a lineout where Baker’s jumping was causing Medway problems, that was to create Charlton’s second try when Rob Saunderson lurking at the back of was quick to pounce on a loose ball resulting from a Medway wayward throw, and his physicality took him over the goal line to touch the ball down for the score.
Playing with confidence Charlton continued to press and it was following a good run by hooker Josh Mickelburgh that was the catalyst for Charlton’s third try when he was tackled deft handling saw Coad, not for the first time this season, on an astute running line take the ball at speed and burst through to score a try and a second first half conversion by Knuckey took Charlton’s advantage to nineteen points.
To Medway’s credit they continued to press and in the last few minutes they came back into the game when following the award of a penalty they too showed their expertise to execute a rolling maul from a lineout to score a try to give them a basis to work from in the second half.
The second half started with frenetic play from both sides as they tried to gain an advantage and it score Charlton’s fourth try to earn was a mistake by Charlton that created the next score of the match when a pass did not go to hand and Medway seized upon the ball and ran it back to score a converted try.
With Charlton struggling to stabilise the situation they had a player sin-binned and when Medway kicked the resultant Medway had reduced their deficit to four points and they were in the ascendency and sensing they might cause an upset.
It was Coad that set in motion a play that saw Rabye set off on one of his weaving runs that saw him breaking tackles, and when he broke through the centre of two Medway defenders he was in a position to touch the ball down for Charlton’s fourth try which earned them a bonus point and with Knuckey adding the conversion to settled Charlton’s shaky start to the half.
Having re-established their control of the match Charlton showed their attacking flair and following a another break from Coad and a rampaging drive from Mark Harlow-Singh Knuckey finished off the move in exuberant manner by diving “Chris Ashton-like” to score the try which he then converted.
Medway, with the possibility of winning the game receding, continued to press, when able, and their perseverance saw them score a second try, that was converted, from a rolling maul after Charlton had conceded a penalty.
With the win and promotion guaranteed Charlton finished the match in style playing in the Medway half and laying siege to the visitors’ goal line. Medway in their efforts to defend were forced into giving away a string of penalties; and with Charlton’s scrum being bolstered by the second half substitution onto the field, of club captain Terry Read, returning to play following an injury, into the front row they opted to continue take the five metre scrum option. With Medway on the retreat Saunderson’s pick up at the base of the scrum lead to Knuckey making a blind-side break and his pass out of the back of his hand was accepted with relish by Baker who scored his second try of the match. To complete a memorable afternoon for Charlton Knuckey added the conversion from close to the side line to seal Charlton’s twentieth league win of the season.
At the final whistle the team were joined on field by other players who are members of the squad that play for the Charlton’s first team and have been a part of the successful season for the Club with Charlton’s second team also winning their merit table in style.
The Club were presented with their League winner’s trophy by a past president of Kent, John Carley, in front of a large and appreciative crowd a number of which have followed the team both home and away for a number of years and others who have contributed to the success but do not seek recognition for their help and support.
Following their promotion to London 1 South Charlton are looking forward to the season 2014-15 with relish.
Team: Beau Stanford-Francis, Josh Mickelburgh, Steve Laverie, Luke Boyns, Mark Harlow-Singh (Capt.), Ben Pritchard, Sam Baker, Rob Saunderson, Alan Knuckey, Thor Normann, Kenny Molekoa, Neil Collins, Mark English. Reion Rabye, Tom “Cyril” Coad, Substitutes Terry Read, Kevin Badger, Tommy Nightingale (All used)