The curtain came down on what it is generally agreed has been another highly enjoyable league season on Saturday, under the captaincy and leadership of our own Terry Read – full of exciting tries and close finishes. For the second year running Charlton Park contrived to come third, three points off the promotion places and 21 in front of their opponents Haywards Heath in fourth, and we congratulate our friends at Beckenham and Horsham and wish them well. We could look back at where those three points went, but there have been several occasions when we have sneaked improbable wins to counterbalance it.
In many ways today’s game was typical of the season. Park had to overcome tough opponents, they slowly got on top and the tries flowed, some of them spectacular, and then they switched off and Heath’s late tries gave the result a closer feel than it perhaps deserved.
Charlton Park took the field without Nick Aston, Ally McQuitty, and the McMullan brothers, four players who had contributed so much to the season, particularly since Christmas. They were, nevertheless, able to put out a surprisingly strong team which demonstrates the depth of the squad.
Alan Knuckey, le petit general, started at scrum half and ran the game, deservedly getting the man-of-the-match, and finished off the home scoring with a rousing try in the left corner at the end of a wonderful move.
On a grey and cold afternoon, not at all what we expect at this time of year, Park’s clear edge in the scrums enabled them to hold the advantage in the first half despite Haywards Heath’s line-out supremacy. There was some hard ball carrying from Read and Mark Harlow-Singh followed up by Rob Saunderson and Luke Boyns going through the gaps but the visitors held firm and it was easy to see how they have had a successful season. Charlton Park led by a mere point, 8-7, just before half-time, a penalty from Connor McDonald off the post putting them ahead followed by the inevitable try from Jake Conway after Ross Sidebottom had nearly scored. Heath came back with a try, converted from touch, but just before half-time McDonald did the same, converting Sidebottom’s try in the bottom corner as he just evaded a fierce covering tackle.
Both sides started the second half as if they wanted to finish the season with a bang and there was some helter-skelter stuff before Luke Boyns was on hand to extend the Park lead. Then came another special from Reion Raybe for the bonus point, just diving in at top speed after Jeremy Montes had drawn the defence. Heath hit back with a try under the posts but the home pack was now well on top. They piled on the pressure with a series of scrums before the referee eventually gave the penalty try, and then came Knuckey, launching himself at the corner flag to round off a move which had started in their own half.
Haywards Heath never gave up and were rewarded with two tries to give them one losing bonus and were pushing for another which would have given them two when the game ended. Charlton Park now have one more game, the County Shield Final against Gravesend at Broad Walk on Kent Finals Day on Sunday 28th April. Supporters should vote for your player of the season by contacting Mally Stokes at MStokes@walkerhamill.com and the Awards Evening is on Friday May 10th at the club.