Terry Read celebrated his last game for Charlton Park (for a year or two anyway) with a comprehensive dismantling of the Thanet Wanderers scrum on the way to Park’s 52-16 win at Cranbrook on Sunday. For the benefit of anyone reading this who has just woken from a long sleep, or maybe been in The Emirates, Terry is moving on next season with all our support to Blackheath, who by the looks of Saturday’s game against Fylde, may well need him!

On a cold and damp day Charlton put the seal on a very satisfactory season by winning the Kent Plate, a competition we have never won before. Meanwhile, on the adjacent pitch, Tonbridge Juddians who beat us in the first round of the Cup way back in August, were winning the Cup Final. That match was the first of thirty for the first team this year, none of them easy, during which we used 33 players, and the demands made on players and coaches has led to some with travelling, work or family commitments having to make the decision over whether to continue to give so much time to such a physical sport. We at the club who have had the pleasure of watching you play all season hope fervently that during the long boring summer you will realise what you and we will be missing and decide that you will be a very long time retired!

The dominance of the forwards enabled Park to get over initial nerves that Thanet could present a potential banana skin. They certainly showed glimpses of threat, particularly through hugely impressive flanker and captain Dave Lemon, sparky fullback Arthur Robinson, with evergreen fly-half Pete Macauley pulling the strings. Once Charlton got on top, however, they were able to revert to the scrum whenever necessary and Terry, Beau and Lavs did the business.

The eight tries (to one with three penalties for Thanet) were neatly divided four in each half, with Alan Knuckey converting the first six. Rob Saunderson once again reaped the benefit of the forward pressure, scoring a hat-trick from pushover scrums, line-out mauls and his own power. Neither Bear nor Knuckey are among those thinking of leaving and they remain at the core of the team.

Despite the scoreline, this was not one of Park’s most fluent performances. Too often potential chances were kicked away, and they were unable to take the quick taps that have so energised their game in the last few weeks. In addition, Thanet’s defence held firm against Charlton’s passing. First half tries were as a result of turnovers, Mike Casizzi and Neil Collins finishing off, and then Mark Harlow-Singh underlined his popularity with a typical drive under the posts. Saunderson’s first from a scrum made it 28-9 at half-time.

Afterwards Thor Normann rounded off a string of passes, and then after Saunderson’s further two, he produced the individual try of the game in the last minute, scything through from fly-half and side-stepping the cover to bring up the fifty. The scoreline was harsh on Thanet, who had competed hard and would have had a second try through left winger Ryan Copp if not for a wonderful covering tackle in the corner from Casizzi. After the game Reion Raybe was asked to join Terry in the Kent squad for training this week; our many congratulations to him for a justly earned call-up after a fantastic season of elusive running.

The Plate presented to captain Read at the end of the game was tangible evidence of the good season Charlton Park have had, and led to something else we do well – celebrating. It was great to see so many supporters there and to show them and others in the county that Charlton Park is in rude health. Because the club is strictly amateur, however, it will be harder and harder to maintain their status amongst the increasingly large sums of money being thrown about in some of our local clubs. It is hardly a surprise that a young player will prefer to play for a second team and receive £100 for doing it. However, anyone wanting to challenge themselves in a truly competitive environment, both for a first team place and then against the clubs of London One, and to enjoy the legendary sociability of a traditional rugby club, should come along to Broad Walk when training starts again on July 2nd and give it a try.

Before then there’s the beer festival from Thursday to Sunday this week, with the Club Presentation Evening on Saturday June 6th and the AGM on July 2nd. There are over 60 going to the Magaluf Beach Rugby at the weekend to try to retain the trophy won last year, among other things of course!