Despite its billing elsewhere as a deadly local rivalry, this turned into a ding-dong end-to-end thriller with barely an angry note, thanks partly at least to a decisive refereeing display but also to two teams who had faith n their own ability and wanted to play. At the final whistle, after eleven tries, Charlton Park were just holding off a determined and skilful resurgence from Old Colfeians when a few minutes earlier they seemed to be heading for a decisive victory.
After a similarly tight finish last week Park were keen not to start the season with two defeats and this win against their near neighbours, who were very unlucky in the manner of their relegation from London One last year and who will certainly be amongst the favourites to return, should do the team’s confidence wonders. It certainly lifted the crowd.
Charlton led 19-0 just before half-time, were pegged back to 19-16, before stretching the lead to 43-23 with a few minutes remaining, during which both teams can look back at some sublime tries and some haphazard defending. With the absence of their four centres for various reasons Park had good reason to praise the stand-ins, Luke Boyns from the back row and man-of-the-match Tommy Nightingale, for some doughty defensive work against a Colfes’ strength. Although they had a slight advantage in the scrum it was nothing like as marked as last week but a spirited display from the new back-row combination helped to keep Colfes under pressure and with Knuckey and Raybe back to their best Park were always a threat.
Connor McDonald put Charlton Park ahead, taking advantage of a free play to collect his own chip over. Then Jake Conway scored what might be the first of many for the club by accelerating through, and finally Knuckey followed his kick through under the posts. A penalty was scant reward for the visitors but they came roaring back with a try after a break through the centre and then two penalties from Jack Potter (son of Gary). The game was in the balance and it was Lee Amzaleg’s well-timed double substitution introducing the fresh legs of Ally McQuitty and Ed Mason that tilted it back the home team’s way.
The pressure was applied and Knuckey and Terry Read burrowed in from close range. A Colfes try brought them back to 33-23, extended by a penalty from McDonald, before Reion Raybe produced the try of the match. Fielding a kick just inside the right touchline he then exploded through a tired defence, accelerating past the cover to score by the posts. Park had to withstand two more Colfes tries as they ran the ball from everywhere, but the game finished with the home team comfortably settled in the visitors’ half.
Thanks to Old Colfeians and we’ll see you for the Christmas match. Next week Charlton Park go to Maidstone to meet another of the relegated teams. After some interesting results in week two, it’s shaping up to be an exciting league.