A third trip down to Sussex and a third narrow loss. Is there a pattern here? This time it was at the hands of old friends and combatants Crowborough, whose organisation and defensive skills just saw off Charlton Park in an entertaining game between two very well-matched teams.
Crowborough won the game in the first ten minutes, racing into a twelve-point lead while Park struggled to get to grips with the home team’s direct runners. A try from Jeremy Montes, converted by Rio Cooper, put them back in the game halfway through the half but that was the end of the scoring.
There was a large contingent of away support for what has always been one of our most popular day-trips. As with most games at this stage of the season, both teams were missing big players – literally so in Charlton’s case with Mark Harlow-Singh away and captain Terry Read on the bench nursing a niggle. The pitch, expected to be very wet, actually stood up well, but its softness sapped the strength of both teams and bogged them down as the second half progressed. Both sides seemed to have game-plans for the wet, with a lot of kick and chase, but discovered as the game went on that handling could work, and Park’s backs looked particularly dangerous when they moved the ball wide. One delicious handling move in the second half went the length of the pitch and failed at the final pass out of the tackle.
As it was, Crowborough were threatening a bad afternoon for Charlton Park when two close-range drives set up by beautifully angled penalties to the corner gave them a two-try lead. Park’s concerns surrounded their scrum, with two keystones missing, but when it began to gain some dominance they noticeably perked up. A carry from Ally McQuitty, some quick passing and quick feet from Alex Miller and Reion Raybe and Montes battered over in the corner. Tight-head prop Adam Neale was forced off with a head injury with twenty minutes to go, but this meant Terry Read was unleashed, and the Charlton scrum made mincemeat of their opponents, without reward.
Park were visibly down after the game. They played well and once again did not seem to get the rub of the green, but that is not the fault of Crowborough, who dominated the line out and whose tackling carried more weight. Fine margins!
Next week Park host Gravesend in what is only their fourth home game of the season.