If Charlton Park learnt a lesson from their Hampshire visitors on Saturday at Broad Walk it was the necessity at this level of making the right decisions. Havant rarely made a mistake after taking the lead in the first minute when centre James Read caught Park on their heels to run in an unconverted try, whereas for all their endeavour Charlton were unable to round off their opportunities with the clinical last pass.
The game hinged on one such incident. Park had withstood some heavy pressure but Alan Knuckey’s penalty brought them up to 5-3 and despite a further penalty from Reynolds to restore the five-point gap Charlton’s ball-carriers led to a further penalty award in front of the posts. Rather than take the certain three points, however, the option taken was to go for the quick tap and create more pressure. It nearly worked but a final pass out of the tackle went astray and was eagerly seized in by Havant winger Peter Living, who set off for Park’s distant line. Charlton defence did well to get across to tackle him but the support was available and what could/should have been at least 8-6 became 13-3.
If they were to get back in the game Park needed a quick score after half-time but the first try was again scored by Havant driving over from short range in the bottom left-hand corner and to add to Park’s woes then brilliantly converting from touch. A further issue in their opponents’ favour was that the home side seemed unable to win any clear line-out ball, although they were gaining the upper hand in the scrum. Havant were penalised three times in succession defending a five-metre scrum and a quick tap enabled Rob Saunderson to drive over.
Hopes were high at this point among the home crowd that Charlton could rescue something from the game, but breaks led by Mark English and Mark Harlow-Singh which could (should?) have been better supported went to waste and Havant finished the game off with their bonus point try from a line-out drive.
Park had their moments but were too frantic when they had the ball. They were undoubtedly badly hampered by an early injury to openside flanker Ben Pritchard and were unable to disrupt Havant’s control of the tackle area, but they are team that badly needs an injection of confidence.
One further point: it was great to be able to talk about the game with a team and supporters who stayed afterwards for a pint or two. I have in the past mourned the passing of post-match socialising but we look forward to many other meetings between the two clubs.