With ten minutes to go in this pulsating game everything was in the balance. Charlton Park held a ten-point lead but were under seige as the Hove backs moved the ball to the left with a clear overlap five yards out. Enter Reion Raybe with an interception, racing the length of the field to turn what could have been a nerve-jangling three-point game into a commanding 17-point advantage.
From there Park went on to seal the win with two more tries and what could have been another of those nervy last few minutes turned into a runaway, slightly unfairly as far as their visitors were concerned.
The sun shines on the rightious
On a day of beautiful winter sun, on a pitch which had survived the deluges of the week well, this was a game to put a smile on the faces of the large crowd. After giving up the first try Charlton were quickly aware of the dangers of the Hove runners, and their full-back Harry Neilson in particular, as they exploited the space in midfield.
It was clear, however, that Park had their game mood on. Rio Cooper, whose kicking was superb all afternoon, kicked a penalty and then Nick Aston stormed onto Tommy Nightingale’s pass to put them ahead. After a penalty each Charlton scored a lovely try to strengthen the lead just before half-time.
A ruck from a line-out, a ball inside, Cooper delayed his pass, Luke Boyns carried almost to the line and offloaded for Mark Harlow-Singh.
The second coming
The second half continued the theme of score and counter-score. Aston was dominating the restart and bursting forward. After Hove had pulled back to 20-17 he broke through and Jake Conway was away, shrugging off tackles and being driven over.
A penalty try after a series of huge scrums seemed to have put the game to bed, but Hove came back again with a second try for number 10 Philip Dugard. The game was anyone’s and then, thanks to Raybe, it wasn’t.
Charlton Park revelled in their sudden dominance. Jeremy Montes broke from halfway and then realised that he would have to run the remaining 50 yards. He just made it, although unfortunately Terry Read just fell short trying to offload after he had rumbled almost the same distance in a run that would have brought the house down had he finished it off.
A Nightingale sings
Finally Nightingale finished off after Vaki Antoniou had been brought down just short.
Coach Amzaleg was happy afterwards. There were hairy moments but he praised the team’ s organisation, structure and sheer relentlessness. Nick Aston was a clear man of the match, but it is difficult to find anyone who wasn’t in with a shout. The back-row in particular was everywhere.
Next week we are away at Old Alleynians, who are on a roll themselves. Should be another good game.
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