With the birds twittering and the blossom bursting, sunny Hove seemed to be gearing itself up for the cricket season, and despite a wholehearted game the overriding impression given of this encounter was of the approaching end of the season.
With Easter on the horizon Charlton Park still have several eggs left in the basket, what with the outside possibility of the second play-off spot, next week’s London and South-East final of the Intermediate Cup and a Kent Shield semi-final still to be fitted in. So it’s one match at a time.
This encounter at Hove always promised to be a tight one. In the first game at Broad Walk Park, or rather Knuckey, had turned a 31-15 half-time deficit into a 38 -34 win, and with Terry Read restored in the front row the visitors’ scrum was stronger, although there were changes elsewhere. As befitted the perfect conditions, there were five tries in the first twenty minutes. Park went through the phases crisply to put Luke Boyns in by the posts and then Rob Saunderson added a second in the left corner for a 12 point lead. But Hove’s backs came roaring back and two long-distance scores from a dangerous back line, both converted, reversed the lead before Jeremy Montes latched onto a crosskick from Tom Amzaleg to squeeze in in the left corner.
From here normal service was resumed. A penalty from Hove meant the visitors led 19 – 17 at half-time, by when half the crowd had melted away to the bar the watch the international. Park opened the second half in the same way as the first, and Barry O’Keeffe scored a fine try in the right corner, using his support runners as decoys. As predicted the Charlton pack was getting on top in the scrums but Hove were handling it well and scored a superb individual try to narrow the gap to two. However, powerful breaks from John Beith and Mark Harlow-Singh created territorial advantage and after butchering one attempt from a five metre scrum they pushed Hove off their own put-in for Rob Saunderson to seal the win.
Many thanks to Hove for their lovely hospitality.
Congratulations go to the second team. A 43 – 33 victory over Old Elthamians means they have sealed their league win, and they maintain their 100% record. If the sign of a healthy club is the record of their seconds Charlton Park can feel content.
Now it’s on to London Cornish next week. It’ll be difficult against a club that has not yet lost this year, but we’ll give it a lash. There’s a coach with free places – names to Nick Hollier.