This certainly had ‘deja vu’ written all over it, given two last-minute losses this season already, but despite the doom and gloom from our twitter feed man on the spot we did actually manage to hang on for a win! Fortunately Mr Cox has a good excuse – he had to take an injured Ed Mason to hospital and when he returned one of our esteemed senior players and higher mathematicians gave him the wrong score. Only at CP!
It is always a challenging game at Deal. Captain Read told his Charlton Park team before the game that this wouldn’t be over until it was over and it wasn’t. Last season Park’s promotion run came to a juddering halt here on the back of some strong second half ball-carrying and an unerring display of goalkicking from their fly-half. This season the comeback was the same but it was Rio Cooper’s 100% kicking that won the game and, sadly for Deal and their number 10, a series of kickable penalties and conversions missed, one of which would have won the game. With time up the home side were awarded a penalty 30 yards out and to the right of the posts. The few of us who had taken the trouble to make the trip down the M2 naturally and automatically assumed that was another game thrown away, but again the kick was pulled and Park had got out of jail.
Charlton Park are lucky to have players they can turn to and it is difficult to apply blame. Pre-match injuries and absences meant we started with one regular back-row who was also the only line-out jumper. Jake Conway was supported at various times by two hookers and two wingers, three of whom were forced off by injury, and by the time Beau Stanford-Francis received a yellow card about 10 minutes from the end they were holding on by their metaphorical finger tips as the home side repeatedly broke through in the inside channels. The front five fought manfully, however, and the backs’ defence held up pretty well.
Park were behind quickly to an interception try, but the rest of the first half belonged to them. Mick Casizzi, playing his first game for the firsts for some time, was showing up well in defence and he was put clear round the blind side for an easy run-in. Then a quick line-out gave Reion Raybe room and his arcing run, couple with Cooper’s kicking, gave Charlton a 23-10 half-time lead. As their energy levels ran out so did some of the decision-making. They had chances to increase the lead but only a further Cooper penalty to show for it and three tries brought Deal back to one point.
Danny Vaughan, ever the nice guy, thought afterwards that Park might have done enough to win. We knew better.
Next week Charlton Park are away at league leaders Haywards Heath.