26 OCTOBER 2013

Charlton Park, despite having to play the bulk of the second half with only fourteen men, recorded a hard fought win against a resilient Heathfield side which through out previous encounters have proved difficult to beat especially when playing at home.

Playing with the benefit of a strong wind Charlton made a bright start and withstood Heathfield’s initial plays and it from a home side error that saw Charlton created their opening score of the match. Following a scrum in midfield Charlton drove up towards the Heathfield half of the pitch with a series of forward driving plays and when the ball was released to their backs following a strong run Reion Rabye scored a try adjacent to the goal posts to aid Thor Norman’s subsequent successful conversion.

To the credit of Heathfield their response was immediate and they began to pressurise Charlton into giving away penalties and errors started to creep into Charlton’s play. Having missed one penalty Heathfield utilised a charge down of a clearance kick and the subsequent penalty, awarded against Charlton who offended into trying to regain possession, when the home side’s kicker took the opportunity to open Heathfield’s scoring for the match.

Heathfield, continued to press and once again it was Charlton’s defensive play that was to create their second try of the game. Following a Heathfield pass not going to hand Rabye was quickest to react to the ball being loose on the ground and his subsequent kick through and dribbling of the ball, allied to his running saw him outstrip the retreating Heathfield defence and he touched the ball down for his second try of the match.

To compound Heathfield’s problems Charlton increased their lead a few minutes later when following spoiling play at a line out where Heathfield had had the throw in, Kevin Badger emerged with the ball and following a break by Norman and good interplay between the backs, Sam Naden playing out of position in the centre was on hand to take the final pass and belying his age, out- sprinted the Heathfield defence to score Charlton’s third try midway through the half. Norman added his second conversion of the half.

Facing an apparent up hill struggle against Charlton’s lead Heathfield then began to construct a period of sustained good play that saw Charlton being pinned back into their half by a combination of home side pressure allied to Charlton making errors or giving away penalties. It was following a well executed catch and drive that saw Heathfield score a converted try and to compound Charlton’s woe their lead was reduced by a subsequent successful Heathfield penalty kick.

It was Charlton Park’s captain Terry Read that created Charlton’s bonus point try on the stroke of half time when he took a quick tapped penalty and his pass set Norman on his way to make a side stepping break and Naden once again was on hand to finish off the move to score his second try of the half. Norman kicked his third successful conversion of the game to give Charlton a 26-13 lead at half time.

Despite playing against a resurgent Heathfield side who had the benefit of the natural conditions meant that Heathfield began to increase their dominance and following Charlton having a player sin-binned Heathfield kicked the subsequent penalty to narrow the deficit.

Playing against a side with only fourteen men Heathfield increased the pressure and it now that Charlton showed their commitment to both defence and team spirit. It was following the award of a five metre scrum that Heathfield tried to utilise their man advantage but Charlton’s front row replacement Russ Tyler who hooked the ball against the head to enable Charlton to clear the danger.

With the man advantage Heathfield continued to press in search of at least a bonus point but Charlton’s defence organised with great verve from back by Tom Coad rose to the challenge with all players committed to maintaining the advantage. It was Coad that prevented Heathfield from scoring a second try when his last ditch tackle snuffed out a sweeping handling move from the home side.

Charlton Park were reduced permanently to fourteen men for the last twenty minutes of the game when their player who had previously offended received a second yellow card. Unfortunately for Heathfield they were unable to utilise their numerical advantage and Charlton’s seven man scrum began to gain the upper hand including them winning for the second time in the half the ball against the head enabling them to nullify Heathfield’s pressure.

It was a last ditch attempt to run the ball out of defence, by Heathfield, to score a try that would have given them a bonus point that saw Charlton score their fifth try of the match when Neil Collins intercepted the pass and twisted his way over The goal line to touch the ball down to score. From the restart the last few minutes of the match saw Charlton run the clock down as they moved the ball from deep in their half up field for sixty metres with a series of well executed driving plays.

By Roe Belcher
Heathfield’s View:

by Philip Bell

Charlton Park were the deserved winners of this entertaining London SE2 league match scoring five tries to one. The visitors took control with three tries in the first quarter and showed why they are again near the top of this league.

Choosing to play with the wind and slope the visitors benefitted from early Heathfield errors including two penalties. Park are an efficient side and duly exploited the opportunity through a number of phases leading to their speedy left winger entering the line and finishing well (0-7). An arm injury meant that Tom Pritchard was now replaced by Joe Burford who went on to have a productive day with good all round work including some handy runs from the base of the scrum. This change meant that David Bayly moved to his preferred position of flanker where he again had a fine game.
Heathfield responded positively and had several periods of pressure leading to two penalty chances one of which Sam Goatcher was able to convert (3-7). Another home attack was looking promising but when this broke down Park were able to hack the ball on and eventually the first try scorer was on hand to double his tally on the day (3-12). A few minutes later the visitors collected another seven points from strong running in the backs (3-19) and Heathfield were looking at a difficult and long afternoon.
However the home side was also playing some effective rugby with the forwards consistently taking the ball on leading to a try for Ollie Robertshaw, converted by Goatcher (10-19), followed soon after by another penalty (13-19). Given that the visitors had the advantage of the conditions at this stage, Heathfield will have been looking at the approaching half time with some optimism. However the visitors fly half now made a decisive break leading to the all important bonus point try (13-26).
This match saw a changing of the guard as Ben Inglis was playing his last game for Heathfield before returning home. His unobtrusive but effective and sometimes dynamic play has been much appreciated and will be much missed. By contrast Win Barrett was having his first game for Heathfield and connoisseurs of back play were impressed by his contribution on the day. Inevitably there were teething difficulties such as defensive alignments but his combination with Jamie Walsh and Joe Price looks very promising.
Ten minutes into the second half a Park flanker was sin-binned for offside and Goatcher duly collected the points (16-26). This was a key point in the game with the home side having a man advantage and the conditions in their favour. Most of the play was in the visitors’ half and a five metre scrum under the visitors’ posts was a great scoring opportunity. However the Park scrummage emerged with huge credit taking the ball against the head and working the ball away from danger.
Indeed the Park defence generally deserved credit as they contained a home side who now had at least the scent of losing bonus point, if not more. Goatcher did some brave work under a high ball leading to Charlie Smithhaving a promising run into the left hand corner but the cover snuffed out the chance.
The Park flanker who had had ten minutes in the cooler now contrived to catch the referee’s eye in another pressure position and a second yellow saw his complete removal from the game. Nonetheless Heathfield were unable to benefit from having an extra man for a large proportion of the second half. The last score came as an attempt to run out of defence by the home side gave an easy interception to a lurking visitors’ centre (16-31).
The Charlton Park backs took their opportunities well in the first half and their sizeable pack did the necessary hard work in the second. They will again be thereabouts in the promotion battle at the end of the season. Afterwards the home coaches were pleased with much of the performance but concerned about the simple errors that handed over momentum early in the game.