Despite this bonus point win at Alleynians on Saturday Charlton Park were pipped at the post for the second place in the league by Hove, who had a handsome win over Deal. We send them our congratulations and best wishes for their home play-off game with Old Reigatians.
Once again Charlton showed the strength of character to win a narrow game in the second half, playing their cross between free-flowing off-loading and reckless slapstick. Despite their forward power Park are at their best and worst when they are keeping the ball moving, although the approach is fraught with danger. Nevertheless, a refusal to kick unless it is really necessary can be the best choice considering that at least two of the home side’s tries were almost handed to them by that method. Coach Lee Amzaleg has rightly encouraged the whole team to enjoy their Saturday’s rugby and to play wherever they are on the field. Even in the last minute the ball was being moved across the line in front of their posts and on several occasions throughout the game some solid defence had to dig them out of holes of their own making.
None of this is to denigrate Old Alleynians, who contributed fully to an enjoyable game on a pitch still carrying some standing water despite the balmy sunshine, and to a referee who let the game flow. The home line-out was well-drilled and their skilful backs were often dangerous in space, although the defence of Luke Boyns and Mark English in the centre held firm. It was once again the scrum that won Park the game, a fact borne out when a yellow card reduced the game to unopposed for ten minutes and brought Alleynians right back into the game.
Park led 10-0 thanks to a penalty from Tom Amzaleg and a try from Mark English created by a switch and break from Tommy Nightingale. After a converted try to the home side another long-distance run-in from Alan Knuckey supporting a break by Rob Saunderson made it 15-7 before a try under the posts brought Alleynians back to within a point at half-time and they took the lead immediately after when ex-Park player Alex Smith burst through a line-out.
Charlton Park’s response was to put scrum pressure on leading to a try from Saunderson, but chances to extend the lead via the conversion and then subsequent penalties went begging. Nevertheless, a vintage piece of Reion Raybe, seizing on a loose ball and scything through seemed to have settled the game. Not at all. A missed touch kick allowed the home fly-half a free run in under the posts. Park continued to flirt with danger while producing some sublime handling moves, one such starting under the posts and ending in touch seventy yards upfield, and eventually the pressure told with Luke Boyns getting a clear run-in.
Ben Pritchard was named man-of-the-match for an all-round non-stop display, but Boyns playing out of position for the second time this season and Nightingale had good games, and of course the forwards set the platform. There is one more game left, away at Deal next week. Park will finish third no matter what, Deal are safe from relegation.