Charlton Park’s best first forty minutes of the season (and more) led them to a convincing win at Deal & Betteshanger on Saturday, but they had to withstand a determined revival from the home side before closing out the victory. After going behind early Park scored five tries before half-time to give them a commanding lead, but Deal counterattacked to gain a try bonus point of their own – a relatively disappointing outcome for the part they played in a thoroughly enjoyable game.
The injury sustained by man-of-the-match Alfie Lisle at the end of the game put a damper on the win, but he was released from hospital last night with little more than a sore neck and was taken home by his parents. Playing at 6, Alfie’s energy, ball-carrying and tackling was at the forefront of Charlton’s fluent first half display, but every player had a part and it was a shame that the high tempo was lost after the break. Certainly questions over fitness exist.
Deal started the faster and were ahead within the first five minutes with a converted try under the posts. Park held firm through several forward drives but, as so often happens, a misplaced pass across the backs caused the defence to freeze. Not for the first time this season it was individual brilliance from Reion Raybe that changed the game. First he charged down a kick and wriggled out of the tackle to score himself, and soon after his run and offload after returning a misplaced kick allowed fly-half Tibs Dimofte to dummy over for his first try for the club.
For the next twenty minutes Park played fast and confident rugby, winning the ball and recycling at speed, led by their experienced half-backs. A penalty try when a forward drive was illegally impeded came between two almost identical tries for Jeremy Montes on the blindside of mauls near the line. Alan Knuckey’s conversions of four of the tries gave the visitors a healthy 33-7 half-time lead.
Any team visiting Deal knows, however, that there will be a comeback, and the home side played their own part in the game with some lovely handling movements. Charlton did not help themselves – two yellow cards made them play with 13 men and injuries meant some reshuffling, but they lost their rhythm and composure. Chad Reay’s dummy once again gave him the space to drive over for the sixth try, but Deal added three more of their own.
For Charlton Park there is a lot to be positive about, and captain Rob Saunderson quite rightly focussed on the scoring of six tries away at such difficult venue. The forwards were much more clinical in their set play, particularly in the line-out where Reay found his jumper or used the short throw to the front to great effect. The ball was cleared from the tackle area quicker and carried and moved with purpose; it was noticeable that the team was focussed. However, when things started to get edgy far too many wanted to talk or blame the ref (who, incidentally had a fine game and whose use of advantage certainly enabled Park to play the way they did in the first half).
A neutral observer will have enjoyed today immensely, as with all Charlton Park’s games this season. With a thriving second team and influential players due back from injury soon the future looks rosier than for some time.