We made it! By beating an irrepressible Truro team on Saturday at Broad Walk in front of a big and raucous crowd Charlton Park qualified for Twickenham and the final of the National Intermediate Cup, where they will play West Leeds on May 6th.
With such a prize ahead, both sets of supporters agreed that this could come down to who best overcame their nerves. Home advantage would be a big factor in Park’s favour, with their opponents having come up from the south-west on Friday, but this was clearly a focus for the Cornish diaspora and it was almost a shock to hear the support when Truro came onto the field.
For the first few minutes it appeared that the home side were the more nervous, a couple of edgy mistakes giving fly-half Ashley Hoskins the opportunity to put Truro ahead with a penalty from a scrum infringement. That would be the only time in the game that Park were behind, however, as they took the bull by the horns and had the game won by half-time, even though most of us in the crowd refused to believe it. Choosing to keep control of the ball rather than kick for position Charlton Park lifted the crowd with two contrasting tries in the next ten minutes. First, Reion Raybe was put clear from his own half, and then soon after the pack drove a line-out with Greory Heloir being credited with the touchdown.
For the next twenty minutes both sides battered at each other, with Charlton having to work hard to keep the visitors out. Having survived however they then exploded into an unassailable lead, although none of us on the side would accept it. A turnover at the breakdown led to Tshepo Mooki scoring in the corner, then Jeremy Montes burst through to feed skipper Rob Saunderson to run under the posts. Back came Truro, and prop Oliver Seagrove brought them back to 24 – 8, but in the last minute of the half another line-out take from Ross McManus and a forward drive put Mooki in for his second try in the corner.
Charlton Park had put together a near-perfect half of rugby but, although 8 – 29 down, Truro were far from dead and buried and they came out firing for the second half. Saunderson was yellow-carded as the defence became more anxious and left winger Josh Symons scored to narrow the gap to 16. Park were doing more kicking now, not always to good effect, but several line-outs in the 22 created pressure and after a series of battering runs Greg Heloir stormed over for his second. Two minutes later Darren Jacques burst through to score under the posts for the men from Cornwall to narrow the gap again.
The Charlton back three were proving a threat, and a high tackle on Raybe brought a yellow card and enabled the home side to set camp inside the Truro half. Their scrum was showing signs of getting on top and after opting for a succession of scrums from penalties John Beith charged over by the posts to almost settle the home nerves. These were finally put to rest by Raybe’s second try, counter-attacking from deep and chasing his kick ahead. There was time for Park to bring on the bench, all seven of them, and for a final try to Truro before the referee’s whistle brought an outburst of relief.
Every semi-final has a loser, sadly, and it is difficult not to feel sympathy for Truro who had had to play all their games away from home. It was a pleasure for the two clubs to make new friends and we wish them well. The game had everything, was played in a fantastic spirit and beautifully refereed by Jack Lewars.
Now Charlton Park look ahead to Twickenham and a day out to be savoured by anyone who has ever played for our magnetic club. We hope to see a lot of old faces on May 6th – I know of one who has already booked his flight from France. The players don’t probably really realise how big this is, although Gregory and Jeremy never thought that two Frenchmen would run out on the hallowed turf of HQ. The Truro view was that Raybe was the difference between the teams, but equally credit could be given to the scrum, up against a powerful Cornish pack, and to a line-out which ran smoothly and to Rob Saunderson’s leadership from the front. Or to the defence, or to the decision to play from the word go. Whatever…