Beckenham salvage bonus point as they suffer their first defeat of the season
By Michael Timms
3 tries in last 10 minutes, not enough for Beckenham
Off the back of a very unconvincing win away at Thanet, the boys were looking to iron out the creases from the previous performance and play with the same fluidity they had before the Christmas break in their first home game on the New Year. What better chance to make a statement to the league in which Beckenham sit unbeaten in 13 than to get a vital W against Charlton Park, a team of which the blue and gold shared the points at their first encounter earlier in the season. Always set to be a tough encounter with the visitors sat 12 points behind in 2nd and aiming to close the gap in this fixture, Charlton Park were always going to bring an extra 20% in order to challenge the hosts.
The weather felt mellow for a day that embraced two forces of London 2 South East. With a calm breeze and mild temperature, it didn’t quite have that aura that a storm was brewing. From the get-go Beckenham maintained possession, however struggled to build phases. First ball from the rucks seemed to go wayward and it put the boys in a jostle of one-step forward, two-steps back, for the first five minutes. It was only a matter of time before Charlton Park would capitalise on one of Beckenham’s unforced errors and through their sizeable winger, Jérémy Montes, they did. A strong carry round the corner from Captain Liam Markey led to quick ball; however, a soft pass from Scrum Half Craig Thompson fell short of Centre Louis Richards’ hands, causing him to knock-on. In an effort to clear the ball from the onrushing Park defenders, Richards ironically “watched the slice” as he shanked the clearance straight into the hands of Montes leaving a clear path to the Beckenham posts. McDonald with the extras made it 0-7.
Beckenham regained the restart and continued to apply pressure. Tactically seeking to play a territorial game with smart grubbers to the corner put the Broncos in good attacking positions, however they coughed up possession far too easily in the opposition 22 to apply that clinical finish that has been ever present all season from the team. A number of lineouts were well read by the Charlton Park pack and the boys were pushed back with the clearing kick. Relentless in attack, Beckenham managed to earn a penalty in front of the posts, which was duly converted by the dependable Louis Richards from the tee. 3-7.
Almost instantly from the restart the ball was gained well by Markey, however the clearing box kick from Thompson found its way straight into touch allowing Charlton Park to take a lineout just outside the Beckenham 22. A scrappy throw was unfortunately knocked on by forward Josh Smith, leading to a scrum which then collapsed, awarding Park a penalty. Opting to kick to touch, the lineout was gathered and a driving maul engaged. The Park pack bulldozed their way toward the line only for Beckenham to collapse the maul just shy leaving the referee no option but to point to the posts and award the penalty try. To add another sucker punch to the already painful blow, Captain Liam Markey saw yellow. 3-14 the score and Beckenham down to 14 for the next 10.
A knock-on by Beckenham hands at the restart leads to a scrum, allowing veteran Sam Forest to enter the field of play to cover the loss of Markey in the pack replacing Santamaria on the wing. The forthcoming scrum collapses allowing Richards a shot at goal, the kick agonisingly wide. Score remains 3-14.
With Park beginning to find their feet in the game they began to build a number of phases, breaking the gain line with strong carries and shifting the ball to either touchline leaving Beckenham staggered. This opened space down the wing for speedster Raybe to have an almost clear run at the Beckenham line, bar the covering defender, Craig Thompson, who appeared to act as a speed bump rather than roadblock as Raybe was able to hurdle the tackle and run in for Park’s third try. McDonald adding the conversion again making it 3-21. With the clock running into the half, Richards was able to add another 3 points from the tee for Beckenham as the Broncos head to the paddock 6-21 down.
After a re-assessment of tactics during the break and the devastating loss of fly-half Jamie McDowall to injury, head coach Dan Brown was forced into unwanted changes. However, Liam Greene, is never a bad option off the bench as a strong ball carrying winger.
Commencing the second half Park continued to dominate possession. It wasn’t long until Montes was able to slice through the Beckenham defence slipping through four tackles with ease before bundling over in the corner. McDonald misses the conversion, 6-26 on the scoreboard.
Beckenham, in need of some possession, were struggling to retain the ball with the lineout faltering at almost every occasion. It began to feel as though the opposition had purloined the pages of Markey’s lineout playbook, causing the team to spend a large portion of the game defending. As such, it led to another blow as returning Centre, Ben Petty, launched himself into the oncoming Park player, causing his AC joint to separate in the collision. A saddening outcome for Petty who, until that point, was one of the few Beckenham players causing any sort of disruption in Charlton Park’s game.
With 20 minutes remaining, Beckenham received a stroke of fortune as the Park fly half lofted a pass deep to his centre who fumbled. Beckenham second row, Ebenezer Ikediashi, first to pounce on the loose ball and recover possession, popping the ball back to Liam Markey who, on the spin, shovels the ball out to onrushing full back Keita Orelaja. Orelaja’s sharp turn of pace and nimble feet saw him glide through a between four Charlton Park defenders. The phrase “through the eye of a needle” came to mind as he whittled his way through, before speeding away to leave a gap wider than the split in James Cleverly’s shorts between himself and the chasing defenders. His 8th of the season under the sticks with Louis Richards adding the points to make it 13-26.
Park earn another penalty shortly after the restart as Ikediashi knocks on and Forest instinctively regathers in an offside position, the points added by McDonald. 13-29. Time running thin for Beckenham meant they needed some gusto if they were to earn anything from this game. Gusto was aptly re-named Sam Forest from this point on as a number of surging runs, monstrous tackles and countless turnovers saw Beckenham finally get on to the front foot. A park defender caught offside gave Richards the chance to put his festively plump, ham joint left leg to ball and get the forwards a line out in the opposition 22. Well gathered by the forwards, a driving maul creates some space for Thompson to pass to Richards. Richards dummies well and pops back inside to Thompson who sees the prop slap it from his grasp. Quick thinking from Thompson however enables him to regather and offload to Andrew Knowles to bounce the blind side flanker and bale over the line. 2 points sharply added by Richards. 20-29 with 10 to go, game on.
Charlton Park send a kick down field to the Beckenham 22. The Beckenham forwards claim the lineout and begin to set a driving maul with Forest at the rear. Popping his colossal cranium from the base, he spots a gap and charges away. Unfortunately, a front row forward trudging 50 meters with too much time to think and his 9 yapping his location in his ear led to a misplaced pass knocked into the hands of Mike Furness by the defending Park player, who bundled him into touch just outside their 22. Possession lost, but the pressure was mounting.
The ball is returned to Beckenham on the half way line. A weaving run from Mike Furness enables quick ball to come out to James Cleverly. Now charged with what one can only imagine was the 2001 smash hit “Move Bitch” by Ludacris playing in his head, Cleverly swats six defenders aside carrying the team up to the opposition 22. The Broncos fully charged at this point build a number of phases earning a penalty 10m out from the line. A quick tap from Orelaja opens some space for Ikediashi to drive at the defence setting up a ruck 2m out. Like a pig sniffing for truffles, Andrew Knowles smuggles the ball under two Park defenders to grab his second of the day. Richards slots the extras to make it 27-29.
Time on the clock edging closer to close of play and the boys knowing they had to conjure something miraculous from the restart meant the next few phases of play had to be flawless. Beckenham relentlessly asking the referee for the time left on the clock, but to no avail. Nevertheless, Park take the restart and the ball is reclaimed by Beckenham. A few phases go by before James Cleverly takes the Charlton Park defence for a walk, carrying three on his back on one of his infamous “barnstorming runs”. The ball floats out to Orelaja who ships to JP Santamaria on the hard line. The ball is retained and passed to Richards with no knowledge of the time left to play makes the decision to punt to touch deep into Park territory. Sadly, this was to be the last kick of the game as the Referee blows the final whistle leaving the Broncos in despair.
A tough result for Beckenham, given the undefeated run. Additionally, to come so close to turning the tie around at the end. The boys showed their fitness and drive to comeback from such a defecit, however, credit to Charlton Park who were a formidable side on the day and deserved winners showing a game of rugby is won over 80 minutes and not 20.
A massive thanks should go out to all the spectators who spurred the team on from minute 1 to 80. Speedy recovery to Ben Petty and Jamie McDowall as the boys look to learn from this game and return to winning ways away at Heathfield and Waldron on the 26th.