If the scoreline looks uncannily like last week, the means of getting to it was very different. This Saturday, at a blustery Hove, the home side took full advantage of the strong wind to open up a 19-0 lead, but at the final whistle only a last minute disallowed try under the posts prevented Charlton Park getting the full five points rather than two bonus points for four tries and a three point defeat.
Looking back from the cold light of Sunday the main conclusion is that Park didn’t really deserve to win, but they almost did. There were occasions in the first half and over a period after half-time when the strong running of the Hove backs continually punched holes in a worryingly leaky defence and it is to the coach and team’s credit that Charlton were able to change the whole game around in the last quarter.
The possession that Hove were able to enjoy, coupled with judicial use of the boot and the strong wind, meant Park were quickly forced onto the back foot, often after periods of promising possession of their own. They swarmed through the midfield with alarming ease and missed a fourth try only when their full-back, probably the man-of-the-match on his debut, ignored the extra man and tried to take on Reion Raybe in the tackle.
Just before the break Tommy Nightingale, playing at scrum-half, broke through and fed Rio Cooper for a try by the posts which he converted to raise spirits a little. This was immediately added to when Adam Neale finished of a series of drives, but two more tries from the marauding home backs on the left seemingly put the result beyond Charlton. However, with a simplified game plan and by now almost constant possession two more converted tries for the visitors narrowed the gap to a situation where one score would do it. Mark Harlow-Singh seemed to have provided the winning moment, but the referee couldn’t award it and, hard as Park hammered at the door, Hove just about hung on.
For Park, another near one goes missing and there is clearly work to be done. Congratulations to Hove who probably deserved the win, but it was mighty close.