Following a chaotic week with three front rows out (one with Covid), injuries piling up and droppings out in the morning (we were left with a bench of one) Charlton Park supporters were not at their most positive. This was heightened when we arrived to find a large crowd and a naturally pumped up home team. Such things can focus the mind, however, and Charlton put on a performance of calm assurance to warm the cockles of those several who had made the trip.
Park settled the nerves with an early try. A Thanet mistake from the kick off gave them field position and a massive charge from Terry Read set up a ruck on the line with Vaki Antoniou scoring. It was clear that both sides had strong defences and although Park had most of the territory and possession they were held out and it was the home side who came nearest to scoring. A speculative kick out of defence bounced awkwardly and it was only a massive tackle from that man Vaki that stopped them on the line. Further big hits held the line, despite the loss of Ben Monsey to a yellow card and after he had returned a penalty from Joe Simpson extended the narrow lead to 8-0 at half-time.
Park started the second half explosively again. Awarded a penalty under the posts they opted for the scrum rather than the simple three points and proved the sideline doubters wrong when snipes from Lee Amzaleg and Rob Saunderson ended with Vaki scoring his second. Now the crowd found their voices and a try under the posts after a series of big drives, followed by a big penalty, brought Thanet back to 15-10, and Park had to work hard to hold out.
Captain Terry Read was not willing to go overboard with praise at the end, but there was much satisfaction in the way the team performed. The scrum held firm, as did the line-out despite Thanet’s greater size, but it was the confidence of the decision making and ball carrying that won the day. Amzaleg and Simpson controlled the game with a variety of moves and clever kicks, and the ball-carrying, led by a dominant performance from Bruce Tuikova, and fluent support play, should really have brought more scores. We went home with smiles on our faces.
Thanks to Thanet Wanderers and best wishes for the rest of the season. Next week we have a lunch with a 25th anniversary reunion of the side that took us into the National Leagues, followed by the small matter of a visit from our friends from Colfeians.