Park collect early tries and then contain resilient Heathfield
Charlton Park were the deserved winners of this entertaining London SE2 league match scoring five tries to one. The visitors took control with three tries in the first quarter and showed why they are again near the top of this league.
Heathfield 16 Charlton Park 31
Choosing to play with the wind and slope the visitors benefitted from early Heathfield errors including two penalties. Park are an efficient side and duly exploited the opportunity through a number of phases leading to their speedy left winger entering the line and finishing well (0-7). An arm injury meant that Tom Pritchard was now replaced by Joe Burford who went on to have a productive day with good all round work including some handy runs from the base of the scrum. This change meant that David Bayly moved to his preferred position of flanker where he again had a fine game.
Heathfield responded positively and had several periods of pressure leading to two penalty chances one of which Sam Goatcher was able to convert (3-7). Another home attack was looking promising but when this broke down Park were able to hack the ball on and eventually the first try scorer was on hand to double his tally on the day (3-12). A few minutes later the visitors collected another seven points from strong running in the backs (3-19) and Heathfield were looking at a difficult and long afternoon.
However the home side was also playing some effective rugby with the forwards consistently taking the ball on leading to a try for Ollie Robertshaw, converted by Goatcher (10-19), followed soon after by another penalty (13-19). Given that the visitors had the advantage of the conditions at this stage, Heathfield will have been looking at the approaching half time with some optimism. However the visitors fly half now made a decisive break leading to the all important bonus point try (13-26).
This match saw a changing of the guard as Ben Inglis was playing his last game for Heathfield before returning home. His unobtrusive but effective and sometimes dynamic play has been much appreciated and will be much missed. By contrast Win Barrett was having his first game for Heathfield and connoisseurs of back play were impressed by his contribution on the day. Inevitably there were teething difficulties such as defensive alignments but his combination with Jamie Walsh and Joe Price looks very promising.
Ten minutes into the second half a Park flanker was sin-binned for offside and Goatcher duly collected the points (16-26). This was a key point in the game with the home side having a man advantage and the conditions in their favour. Most of the play was in the visitors’ half and a five metre scrum under the visitors’ posts was a great scoring opportunity. However the Park scrummage emerged with huge credit taking the ball against the head and working the ball away from danger.
Indeed the Park defence generally deserved credit as they contained a home side who now had at least the scent of losing bonus point, if not more. Goatcher did some brave work under a high ball leading to Charlie Smith having a promising run into the left hand corner but the cover snuffed out the chance.
The Park flanker who had had ten minutes in the cooler now contrived to catch the referee’s eye in another pressure position and a second yellow saw his complete removal from the game. Nonetheless Heathfield were unable to benefit from having an extra man for a large proportion of the second half. The last score came as an attempt to run out of defence by the home side gave an easy interception to a lurking visitors’ centre (16-31).
The Charlton Park backs took their opportunities well in the first half and their sizeable pack did the necessary hard work in the second. They will again be thereabouts in the promotion battle at the end of the season.
Afterwards the home coaches were pleased with much of the performance but concerned about the simple errors that handed over momentum early in the game.
This Saturday (Nov 2 2.30) Heathfield visit Maidstone for the first time in several years.