Charlton Park are making a thing of last-minute thrillers and, although this time it didn’t work out in their favour, yesterday’s game at Horsham was another. Last year’s fixture between the sides ended in an injury-time winning try for the visitors and Horsham supporters admitted to a faint tinge of deja-vu as waves of pressure threatened to turn the result again. This time their tackling held firm and Park had to return home with just two bonus points for their trouble, courtesy of four tries – all scored by Rob Saunderson returning to his old number 8 position to accommodate multiple changes.
Sadly for those missing at weddings, this was the day the perfect summer broke. Freezing rain swept down the pitch throughout the match and it seemed clear that it would have a big effect on the game. Neither side, however, kicked accurately enough to take advantage of the direction of weather, so the ball was kept in hand. Charlton’s pack dominated the scrums and led to all Saunderson’s tries, while Horsham, forced to be adventurous, capitalised on Park’s mistakes.
Charlton Park, with the benefit of the rain, only led 10-7 at half-time. Saunderson’s first try running off the back of a scrum as they dominated the opening exchanges, Horsham going ahead with a converted try under the posts, then a pushover. The see-saw scoring continued. Horsham went ahead, Park overtook them and Horsham missed two penalty attempts to retake the lead. Two tries in rapid succession sealed the game, giving the home side a 24-15 lead, but Charlton Park would not give up and Saunderson scored his fourth from a pushover that could easily have been a penalty try.
A disappointing result but with many plus points, particularly in the performance of the debutants, one of whom, Gareth Whatley, deservedly got Lee’s man-of-the-match award. Horsham gave the accolade to Alan Knuckey, but the front row was immense, Mark Harlow-Singh carried the ball as always and Jake Conway was everywhere.
The other talking point was the 4G pitch. It looked beautiful and played fairly, once the players had got used to the surprisingly slow bounce of the ball. Horsham were perfect hosts and we look forward to welcoming them back to earth (geddit) at Broad Walk.
Next week there is a home Kent Shield game against Dover, kick off 2.30pm