Charlton Park visited Tunbridge Wells to play a re-arranged league match and with fly half Thor Normann scoring two tries and one apiece from Neil Collins and Reion Rabye returned with a win that earned them five points to continue their attempt to gain promotion and in the process ended the home side’s winning run of nine matches.
Fielding several changes, including Rob Saunderson as tight head prop, Charlton started the match playing with the benefit of a slope and with the pitch firm under foot they should have opened the scoring within the first minute but the final pass was not accurate enough and the opportunity was wasted.
Putting their initial error behind them Charlton settled into their game plan well with backs and forwards combining to give impetus to their play. It was following a drive that saw Saunderson and, Mark Harlow-Singh drive into the Tunbridge half and when the home side offended Tom Coad kicked the resulting penalty.
From the start of the game Charlton’s lineout had functioned well and was following good quality ball being won by Ross McManus that set in motion Charlton’s first try of the game that saw the ball being driven up field before fly half Thor Normann showed his pace as he broke several Tunbridge tackles to score a try under the goal posts to assist Coad’s subsequent conversion.
Charlton, having extended their lead, then from the restart relaxed and when they tried and over ambitious play saw them began to give away kickable penalties and Tunbridge’s impressive kicker Luke Giles showed his true mettle by kicking two to narrow the deficit to only four points.t.
It was following good play by Charlton at a lineout that saw Tunbridge give away a penalty and Coad took the opportunity to kick the resultant points to settle Charlton’s nerves. The restart kick was to lead to the second try of the half when following Saunderson’s catch in the Charlton twenty two metre the ball was taken forward with a break from Normann and when he was tackled Collins backing up, took the off load and he spun his way through desperate tackles to run the ball in from just inside the Charlton half to score a try with Coad adding his second conversion of the half.
Playing with confidence Charlton continued to press and with players and with Tunbridge missing tackles they continued to have the better of play and they started to dominate the physical challenges but for a handling error when they knocked the ball they should have extended their lead. To Tunbridge’s credit they continued to defend and solid defensive play stopped a number of attacks and when given the opportunity exhibited signs of why they were on an unbeaten run.
Despite Charlton’s best efforts they were unable to increase their lead and it was slightly against the run of play when following a good run Charlton gave away a penalty ten metres into their half and close to the side line and once again Giles’ kick was successful.
The last score of the half was the result of good play by scrum half Will Robertson. When Tunbridge Wells were awarded a scrum, following another period of play Robertson was mistaken for a home side player and he caught a pass from Tunbridge and following his scampering break down the wing and from quick ruck ball, Normann jinked his way clear for his second try, converted by Coad.
Tunbridge made several tactical substitutions and then proceeded started the second half brightly putting pressure onto Charlton and were rewarded with a period of pressure and they were assisted when following two perceived offences at a scrum Charlton had Luke Boyns sin-binned and he was joined several minutes later by Robertson leaving Charlton with only thirteen players. Tunbridge used their numerical advantage well and following good interplay outflanked Charlton and scored their first try of the game which was converted.
It required excellent play by centre Ben Chappell, who once again had a good game in defence that saw him turning the ball over, to nullify a good scoring opportunity for Tunbridge Wells. With both sides defending well the game fluctuated with both teams having periods in the ascendency.
Charlton’s forwards continued to create scoring opportunities and it was only last ditch goal line defending from Tunbridge to deny Charlton another score after robust driving and phase play. The introduction of scrum half Alan Knuckey, making a welcome return from a serious injury saw him testing his fitness and Achilles tendon as from a scrum he broke up field and his subtle offload was taken by Rabye who broke through three tackles to spring from halfway to score the decisive fourth try to bring Charlton a bonus point.
With time running out Tunbridge continued to press and their running took them into Charlton’s half. With Charlton’s forwards understandably suffering from their exertions Tunbridge finally gained some reward for their efforts as they scored their second try in the closing minutes of the game.
Next Week Charlton continue their league campaign when they entertain Lewes at Broadwalk kick off 3.00pm.
By Roe Belcher