There was an understandable air of disappointment amongst Charlton Park supporters (and they made up 90% of the crowd, and 100% in the bar beforehand) after this reversal of last week’s euphoria. Not that it came as a surprise: we knew that Alleynians’ recent results showed they were on a bit of a roll and this turned out to be the case.
Immediate reactions after defeat usually focus too much on the shortcomings of your team, but later reflection can lead to the realisation that most of the focus should be on the opposition, who just played a lot better than us. Alleynians came with a plan to negate Park’s strengths and take advantage of their weaknesses, and it worked to perfection. Nevertheless there was a ten-minute period midway through the second half when Charlton Park were able to apply the pressure themselves and reduce the deficit to just eight points. A couple of opportunities came but were not seized and the home side saw out the rest of the game with comparative ease.
It was clear from the start that Alleynians were up for it and the tackles were piling in. There was also a clear plan to kick a lot for position, get a foothold in the Park 22 and use their dominant line-out and driving maul. This was orchestrated by an impressive scrum-half whose box-kicks were right on the money. Charlton didn’t help themselves by failing to keep hold of the ball, but they were pressured into the mistakes they made.
The die was cast in the first five minutes when a Park overthrow on their own line led to the first try. A Rio Cooper penalty brought the score back to 5- 3 and Charlton had some promising phases of possession. At one stage Vaki Antoniou was through until a defender appeared Lazarus-like from being tended by the physio to make the tackle. Once again, however, an overthrown line out, this time in the Alleynians half led to a swift break and a try in the corner, and this was followed by another from a line-out driving maul. Right on half time the ball was coughed up again, A’s left winger kicked ahead and a helpful bounce enabled him to put the home side out of sight.
A near try for Jake Conway early in the second half enabled Park to apply their own scrum pressure, but it took many minutes of set and reset plus a yellow card before the referee awarded the inevitable penalty try. Then Jake Conway scored after a break from Antoniou and Charlton had another immediate opportunity with men over on the blindside but it was kicked away and from then on Alleynians managed the game well, with a further line-out try when yellow cards had reduced Park to 13 men.
Congratulations to Alleynians, who will offer a challenge to all other teams in their remaining fixtures, and particularly to ex-Park player Alex Smith. Their greater organisation, defensive line speed and team commitment won the game and Charlton Park will need to learn from that: they never gave up and many forwards had strong game – special mention must go to Callum Biggins, thrust into the second row at the last minute.
We now have three successive home games, starting with Deal & Betteshanger next week.