“A bad day at the office” was a player’s reaction to this ultimately heavy defeat for Charlton Park on Saturday. It was, but it does not give enough to a fine display from the home team who are clearly geared up for a serious promotion push this season. They did what Park usually do – took the game away in the last ten minutes with some skilled handling and chasing after both teams seemed to have battered themselves into submission. Up until then, with the score 5-3 and Charlton Park pressing strongly, the result seemed up for grabs.

It was always going to be a case of which defence held up longest. In an attritional first half Charlton withstood a series of surging Hove attacks before coming back and laying seige to the home line. Tom Amzaleg kicked a penalty to give them the narrow advantage at the break. Immediately after the restart they lost that lead to a try in the corner, and that was how the score stood for the next 25 minutes. Hove tried to move the ball wide, Park attacked the blindside – both to no avail, although most of the second half action took place at the Hove end..

With 15 minutes to go the Charlton Park scrum-half and linchpin Alan Knuckey was forced off with a serious looking ankle injury (the same would happen to the Hove scrum-half soon after). Then came the decisive moments. Long passing exposed Charlton on the right and the winger was able to run round behind the posts for 12-3. Park came back but it was all or nothing and after the ball became loose Hove won the pitch-long kick and chase. Player body language would suggest the right decision was made, but  in the darkening gloom in the far corner most players and virtually all the spectators had no idea what happened. Finally, on the final whistle, Hove scored their bonus point try, again after a fine wide pass from the fly-half.

Hove have always had good backs, but their pack is now also a force and their defence was excellent. Their win was well-deserved. Park did lots of good things, particularly in defence, but their source of line-out ball dried up and their passing was a little too ponderous. The whole team kept going to the end and the margin of 19 points is by no means a reflection of the overall play. Credit to both teams for an enthralling battle.

This Saturday it’s the Intermediate Cup and a second successive home tie against old friends from Twickenham. It promises to be another tight one.