Forget the scoreline just for a minute. Chobham certainly deserved their win on Saturday, but Park came away with more than the points deficit suggests in an exciting game, and the home side managed their bonus point try only many minutes into injury time.
Despite their willingness to run the ball, Park were shown what it takes to win in this difficult league. They were forced to play on the back foot and despite a courageous and organised defence Chobham’s all-round power and solidity, particularly in the line out, and ability to keep recycling the ball through multiple phases wore them down and eventually they simply ran out of tacklers.
This was Charlton Park’s first ever visit to Chobham and our supporters’ club received a warm welcome from the large home crowd. Early predictions favoured a high-scoring game strongly influenced by the strong wind and dry pitch, but the game did not quite pan out like that. At 17-7 halfway through the second half the visitors felt they were well in the game and with Ross McManus putting in a man-of-the-match performance all over the pitch a try from a period of sustained pressure might just have created a nervous flutter amongst a team pushing hard for promotion. Chobham’s defensive line stood rock solid all afternoon, however, and Park were unable to retain the ball with certainty. A superb try under the posts off a scrum from the home number eight Smith extended the lead and made the game safe but Park continued to attack and there was a nervous murmur around the home crowd. Then, with time already long gone, a multi-phased attack, aided by a tap penalty, allowed lock Sammut to crash over in the final play.
Playing with the wind in the first half, Charlton took a long time to get into the game and were 10-0 down in as many minutes. If they weren’t sure what to expect they soon found out when a series of attacks and offloads created a try by the posts, and this was soon added to by a penalty. For the rest of the half, however, Park threatened without ever quite breaking through. Injuries to Thor Normann, Steve Laverie and Ally McQuitty did not help the cause, but replacements Connor McDonald, Russ Penton and Ally Young all fitted in well.
After half-time, playing against the wind, Park probably had the territorial advantage. Neil Collins broke through after some sustained passing and Alan Knuckey, who was at the heart of most of the attacks, converted, but that was the end of Charlton’s scoring. In the end there was a feeling of frustration amongst players and coaches at some refereeing decisions, but a general recognition that a strong team had been pushed all the way.
By the way, which dyslexic supporter bought a train ticket to Cobham?