Match report from Nigel Guy, Director of Rugby : Chobham 31 – Charlton Park 7
With last week’s results suggesting that London 1 South might be heading for the same sort of final day climax that we saw in the 6 Nations, it was imperative that second placed Chobham continued to keep the pressure on league leaders Wimbledon with a bonus point win over Charlton Park. Not that this would be easy. Despite being promoted last season, south east London based Park have acquitted themselves very well this season in London 1. Our pre-Christmas trip round the south circular gave us a 28-8 win but this was hard fought and a look at the season’s results show that our visitors push their opposition all the way and their comfortable mid table league position reflects this.
So the hosts needed to be at the races and prepared for an 80 minute game of rugby. On the Chob team sheet, Ian Barnes returned to take over the 9 shirt and Oli Guy and Lee Evans also came into the starting line-up. The going underfoot was firm although yet again the players had to contend with a strong wind.
Play got underway and Chobham made the prefect start. Securing the kick off, they showed the rugby that has moved them to the heart of the promotion stakes. Moving the ball across the field in a controlled manner and recycling quickly, the phases moved well into double figures before Josh Devitt took advantage of a stretched defence to crash through a tackle and score under the posts. Alex Seers converted and with 2 minutes gone the scoreboard read; Chobham 7 Charlton Park 0. The hosts continued to look sharp but a knock on and a forward pass stilted momentum and any further scores. On 11 minutes, veteran Tim Woods took over in the front row from Evans whilst the physios did some temporary patching up and on 15 minutes Seers bisected the uprights with a perfectly struck penalty into the teeth of the wind. Chobham 10 Charlton Park 0. Park though were now starting to get into their stride. Scrum half Alan Knuckey whose great battle with Barnes was one of the highlights of the afternoon, started to orchestrate his team’s reply. With skipper Mark Harlow-Singh prominent, Park started to generate some pressure from the possession they had, but the Chob defence looked solid and secure with few tackles missed. Back came Chob with number 8 Ollie Smith making a good break but the offload was just knocked on, then the prominent Lewis Manning earnt a penalty which this time Seers pushed wide into the wind. Devitt was then caught by Park’s own flyer, Reion Rabey. So, despite the teams’ efforts, the score remained unchanged as half time approached with both looking threatening but neither able to unlock the defensive doors. Half time; Chobham 10 Charlton Park 0.
The coaching team of Ryan Gregory and Tony Paul were satisfied with the half time score having played into the wind and the focus on the second half was to increase the accuracy and seek some continuity to open up gaps in the Park defence and hopefully increase the try count.
Like the 1st half Chobham made a good start moving quickly into the visitor’s 22 earning an attacking scrum. With Evans, Blemings and Kuwana scrummaging strongly all afternoon, the set piece was secure and Barnes’ pass found Seers who with a feint and step caught the Park defence off guard to score a superb fly half’s solo try. With him adding the extras, the board read; Chobham 17 Charlton Park 0. But as expected back came Park. Number 8 Rob Saunderson moved into the vanguard with some powerful carries, well supported by lock Ross McManus. For a while, Chob’s plan of looking for more tries in pursuit of the bonus point was put on hold as Park went looking for their own score and eventually on 57 minutes Neil Collins burst over from short range after a period of pressure near the host’s line. Knuckey converted. Chobham 17 Charlton Park 7. Chob looked to get their hands on the ball but were being denied by the visitors, but the bonus point came closer when from another excellent scrum Smith was able to squirm over the whitewash for the try which Seers converted. Chobham 24 Charlton Park 7. Now 15 minutes to get the fourth try. But credit to Park, they were keen to keep their part of the scoreboard moving and back they came again with the same highly effective plan from the same personnel. Chob started to get frustrated as they weren’t able to secure possession in the right areas and time moved on quickly without any further score. As the clock approached 80 minutes and before we moved into the not insubstantial stoppage time, Chob found themselves deep in their 22. Roared on by their crowd and showing great composure, they then proceeded to manoeuvre themselves up field in a series of precise plays during which almost every member of the team handled the ball. Devitt made a half break but was caught, Manning probed, then Jerry Rumball hurtled through only to be caught but the returning Tom King was on hand to keep possession. Liam Monaghan darted up the tramlines but was stopped. Eventually the stretched Park defence was penalised 15 metres out for stopping the release and quick as a flash Barnes tapped and brought lock Dom Sammut onto the ball to crash over for the fourth and bonus point securing try on the last play. Seers made a tricky conversion look easy to add the gloss. Full time; Chobham 31 Charlton Park 7.
A breathless finish! In the first and last few minutes this Chobham team showed just how good they can be when they play at their controlled tempo and importantly get the execution right. In between, they had to scrap against a physical and well organised Charlton Park who played their part in a very entertaining game of rugby which Norfolk based referee Chris Rowe did much to promote as well. That’s now 14 wins on the bounce and with the top four all winning with bonus points it’s no change at the top. Action resumes after Easter with Chob travelling to Hove who have now lost their battle against relegation.
Nigel Guy, Director of Rugby, Chobham RFC