Charlton Park’s mini-resurgence came to an end on Saturday at the hands of a well-organised Sutton and Epsom side who deserved their win.
Park were ‘blown away’ by a mixture of a strong wind, a resolute home defence and a referee’s whistle – or lack of it. They dug their own grave at the start, choosing to face the wind which just got stronger as the game started, laced with rain and the hosts played exactly the right game, keeping Park pinned in their own 22 with accurate kicks and taking advantage of the pressure with two early tries. Come the second half, the conditions improved slightly and Sutton were able to hold Charlton out, restricting them to one interception try.
Sutton opened the scoring with a penalty from scrum half Munford after Park were penalised for being offside from a kick. A further penalty pinned Charlton back in the corner and they were pressurised at the line-out enabling the home forwards to drive the ball over by the posts for a converted try. The same process led to the second try after 20 minutes, but this time Park were penalised for delaying the throw into the line-out, despite what was at this time a howling gale, and from the resulting tap penalty centre Andy Matthews weaved his way over.
At this stage, 17-0 down and unable to break out of their own 22, Park looked to use their forwards to make progress but their clear superiority in the scrum was not supported by the referee’s whistle, and the same went for a driving maul of 20 yards or more which ended disappointingly in a home scrum. However, half-time was reached with no further changes to the score and hopes were still high that the deficit could be turned around.
Park did have by far the better of the territory after the break but for large amounts of the time they huffed and puffed and came up short against a determined and well-organised defence, recycling the ball smoothly but lacking the final cutting edge or spark of individual brilliance that was needed. Terry Read and Mark Singh carried the ball strongly and they thought they had the first try when a quick exchange of passes between Mark English and Ben Chappell put the latter in under the posts but it was disallowed for a forward pass.
Sutton always looked dangerous on the break, however, even if they rarely got close to the visitors’ line. It was from one of these threatening breakouts that Park got their score. Sutton’s man-of-the match, number eight and captain James Caddy broke out from the back of a scrum but as they tried to find space passing wide Ben Chappell intercepted and raced away sixty yards for the try.
Park had chances to get the further score which would have brought a bonus point, particularly from strong runs by Richard Bryan and Thor Normann, but they lacked that piece of magic that would have unlocked Sutton’s smothering defence.
Both sets of supporters agreed that this was a promising game marred by wind and whistle, neither of which gave either side confidence. The right team won but Park Director of Rugby Andy Miller praised the team for their positive attitude and not least their self-control.