Charlton Park in the space of seven days experienced the highs and lows of league rugby when a lack lustre performance saw them succumb to a highly-committed Heathfield side who were in the bottom of half of the league and on on the fringes of the relegation zone.

Charlton, from the kick off were a shadow of the side that seven days previously beaten Dartfordians and they were hampered by an injury to Jeremy Montes who injured his hamstring in warm the warm up and this saw backrow forward Alfie Lisle fulfilling for the entire match the unaccustomed position of left wing. Despite a promising opening to the game errors immediately crept into Charlton’s play and these were to blight their performance for much of the match.

Against the odds, it was Charlton who had the opening chance of a try when a chase by Tshepo Mooki just eluded his attempt to pick the ball up and instead rolled into touch. Fielding a changed front row combination Charlton began experience problems at the scrummage and this enabled Heathfield to work their way out of their danger and establish an attacking position up field.

Their problems at the scrum cost Charlton dearly when after ten minutes, following the award of a scrum in their favour, Heathfield took the ball against the head and a swift number 8 pick up and passing saw the home side score a try that was converted from close to the try line to give them a well merited lead.

With their kicking game not functioning satisfactorily Charlton attempted to run the ball from most parts of the field but reckless passing, lack of support or a lack of numbers of players at the breakdown saw them squander numerous chance to progress out of danger.

Heathfield, playing with belief were the most effective of the teams and it required last ditch defence to prevent the hosts extending the lead. With Lisle playing on the wing, when Ben Pritchard had to leave the field with a rib injury Charlton were forced into re-jigging their team and this seemed to improve Charlton’s play.

Despite their best efforts Charlton’s poor passing play, allied to solid defensive play from Heathfield, saw them unable to make any real inroads into the home side’s half of the pitch. It was only in with five minutes left of a half that had seen them playing on the defensive for the majority did Charlton mount any real pressure. Following a series of plays Charlton were awarded a five-metre penalty and a quick tap saw John Beith, who had been running hard throughout the half, finally break through to touch ball down for a try to narrow the deficit.

This seemed to energise and give self-belief to Charlton and from the restart they spend the dying moments of the half laying siege to Heathfield but, without success, as the home side rose to the challenge with resolute to repulse all Charlton’s efforts.

The try in the first half proved to be a “false dawn” and any hopes of a recovery in the second half as Charlton continued to play with far too loose play whatever the situation was. With Heathfield proving to be the more effective team in much of the half the home side began to make telling breaks that on occasions required frantic chasing by Charlton’s increasing bewildered players to nullify.

Charlton’s devil-may-care play almost cost them dearly when a promising following move saw them threatening the Heathfield try line, but an ill-advised attempted cut out pass was read with ease by the advancing Heathfield defence and it required an eighty-metre chase by Reion Raybe to drag the player down with a try looking likely. Unfortunately, this tackle did not clear the danger for Charlton as Heathfield made numerous attempts to score and saw Charlton losing a player to the sin bin following once again problems at the scrum. The resulting penalties were run and the reduced player count for Charlton proved costly as Heathfield scored their second converted try and in doing so reinforced their self-belief.

Charlton, even being one man down increased the tempo and continued to press but errors still occurred. with their lineout on occasions misfiring they were unable to maintain any pressure and they rode their luck when following an error Heathfield’s tight head prop was in the clear but he was unable to utilise the chance. The loss of Luke Boyns did not help Charlton and It was following slack work at a ruck by Charlton that saw Heathfield turn the ball over and after a run of over half the length of the pitch score their third try of the half.

With the tension rising as Charlton struggled to cut the deficit it was only after a bout of “handbags at dawn’, that necessitated the referee calming matters down did Charlton finally click into an effective mode of play utilising their more normal mode of play. Charlton thought, they had broken back into the match but their try effort was deemed to have been held up. The pressure however was maintained and Heathfield was forced into conceding penalties and following a quick tap Rob Saunderson broke through a desperate tackle to score Charlton’s second try of the afternoon.

With time running out Charlton continued to press, and deep into time added on for stoppages they were awarded a penalty. Despite the urge to tap and go cool heads prevailed and Knuckey kicked the points to give Charlton a losing bonus point, and therefore something from a game that had for long periods where they had been second best.

Next Saturday Charlton entertain Portsmouth in the semi-final of the London & South East Intermediate Cup with kick off at 2.00pm.