Ex-Maidstone winger Vaki Antoniou exacted full retribution on his old club with four tries in Charlton Park’s win over the league’s bottom club at The Mote on Saturday. And for this, he wasn’t even given the man-of-the-match: that went to Mark Harlow-Singh for his tireless ball-carrying and solid midfield defence.
Maidstone, however, gave a spirited performance which, considering their parlous league position and despite falling behind quickly, reflects great credit on their players and management. Their scrum and their ball carrying forwards posed a threat, particularly in the first half when Charlton’s defence needed to be on its mettle and sometimes wasn’t.
As the score suggests however, Park contained too much all-round fire power when they were able to get on the front foot and recycle, and the backs and supporting players took full advantage. Halfbacks Lee Amzaleg and Rio Cooper moved the ball quickly and the young home backs were regularly outflanked by slick passing, although disappointingly this broke down when the team lost concentration after the game was won.
After their customarily sluggish start in which Jeremy Montes was forced off injured his replacement Rob Saunderson was quickly into the game and his burst created space for the backs to put Antoniou over for his first try, converted superbly from touch by Cooper.
This was quickly followed by another in the same spot for the same player after Luke Boyns and Saunderson again had carried from a line out. Jake Conway scored the third after an offload from Harlow-Singh, but a short range try at the end of the half while Conway was in the bin meant that Park only led 19-5, having had the benefit of the slope and wind.
The floodgates open
This possible advantage to the home side was negated in the first 17 minutes of the second half during which Charlton Park piled up five tries to take their total to the half-century mark. The floodgates opened when Saunderson walked in an overlap on the right; the restart then didn’t go ten and from the resulting scrum Amzaleg ran blind and Aston scored. From the next restart, this time kicked deeper, Park attacked again, Reion Raybe weaved his way forward and an overlap put Antoniou in comfortably for his hat-trick. This was followed soon after by his fourth and best when he chose to beat several defenders in a forty-yard lung-bursting run rather than pass to one of several supporting players. And finally, on 57 minutes, Aston was on hand after another handling move to score his second and Park’s eighth.
Maidstone refused to give up, however, and were rewarded for their determination and straight running with two tries while Charlton Park reverted to a sloppy version of throw the ball around which, in the gusting wind, didn’t work.
Exciting three weeks coming up
Charlton now have three big home games in succession, with Crowborough (and a VP lunch) next week, followed by the rearranged game with Haywards Heath and then the area cup final with Colfes. It is a lip-smackingly enticing time.
Photos are courtesy of Justjack Photography
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