It’s high summer, the season has started and Charlton Park have won their first game for several years. On a straw coloured pitch, after a long crawl down the M2 among the day-trippers and against a side that Park struggled to beat by one point in both games last year, this was a satisfying start.
Both sides had lost influential players during the close season; this was the first sight of what the teams might look like and Park, by scoring three tries to nil, deserved their win, but it was hard going against some solid defence. There were four league debutants who all performed well, and Alex Miller coming back after a few showings last year after a joint registration from Canterbury.
After a defence-dominated first half Charlton were energised by Jeremy Montes coming on at half-time, smarting from having to start on the bench and with a point to prove. He made the initial dents and the holes started to appear leading to tries from two of the debutants. Nevertheless, Thanet proved a tough nut to crack and were still threatening until Vaki Antoniou’s injury time try settled the nerves.
Park’s problem for most of the first half was that they couldn’t get hold of the ball (line-outs were dominated by Thanet’s bigger forwards and some pinpoint throwing in) and when they did they couldn’t retain it. It was just as well that the defence was uniformly solid and the home side was restricted to just two penalties. As half-time approached breaks started to appear but the ball was lost just when patience was required.
Charlton came out of the blocks in the second half. Strong defence just kept Nick Aston out in the corner, but soon after he was through after some slick passing. Straight from the restart Montes burst up the middle, Jake Conway carried the ball another forty yards weaving across the field looking for support until scrum half Alex Bill popped up to take the inside pass. Rio Cooper’s conversion made it 12-6, but another penalty (when Park might possibly have been under greater threat from a kick to the corner) narrowed the gap. A double yellow card after some handbags with Montes left Thanet without a back row and Luke Boyns exploited this explosively. His pass still left Antoniou with a lot to do but an inside shimmy and acceleration took him through to seal the game.
A satisfactory result – coach Amzaleg decided Montes was homme du match, but the back row, led by Boyns, and the centres were close. Ball movement was generally good and we learned towards the end that retaining possession rather than throwing the wild offload is a better bet.
Next week we have a lunch when we welcome Beccehamians to Broad Walk.