Blues are down – but show they have the spirit to return

Phil Dickin scores a Chi try in their win over Westcombe Park / Picture by Kate Shemilt
Phil Dickin scores a Chi try in their win over Westcombe Park / Picture by Kate Shemilt
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Chichester won their last game in National three London south east in style, playing with obvious team spirit and completely dominating the second half to beat Westcome Park 20-12 – but it was not enough to keep them up.

They avenged their one-point loss in the away meeting and their third-placed visitors competed but were outplayed.

Predictably Sutton beat Amersham which means Chi finish third from bottom and are relegated. Normally 47 league points would have been enough to stay up but this season it has been very close between many good teams.

If the Blues hold together and play as well as they have in several matches, they will be a strong force in London and south east one.

On a lovely sunny day the pitch was bone-hard. Chi welcomed back fit veteran Tim Cook at outside centre, Jack Maslen moved to full-back and Ross Miller started on the left wing.

For ten minutes the exchanges were fast and furious and the referee had a calm word with the captains after some robust tackles by both sides.

Chi beat three top six teams at Oaklands Park. It was their poor away form which let them down. They earned 16 bonus points, seven of which came from lost games. They can be optimistic for the future.

Chris Johnson and Phil Dickin led an attack to the corner, linked with Charlie Wallace to spread the ball and won a penalty which Henry Anscombe converted.

Park attacked and showed their mobility and Maslen saved from a dangerous high kick. He then went on a good sprint, passing to Ben Robson to show his boot power.

The battle of the pack warmed up and it was even in scrums and lineouts, Aaron Davies and Nick Blount reaching for the sky. A fine break in the centre by Park and quick hands sent lock O’Sullivan over for the first try, but the conversion was missed.

Chi replied with forwards and backs combining and holding passes to build the pressure. A penalty to Vultures’ Corner, lineout and drive put Davies across and down, his speciality. The conversion was missed from wide.

Within two minutes Park went ahead again when a Chi clearance kick was charged down and carried forward for prop Stanford to score. The conversion was good by C Edwards, one of two brothers playing alongside one another.

Robson almost broke through from the drop out and then tackled to stop a Park thrust. A lineout and drive by Chi was held and a knock-on ended another. It was 12-8 at the break.

Park had one attack before they were driven onto the back foot and where they stayed. Chi turned the screw an got on top in the tight, giving plenty of possession to hungry backs. Their driving mauls succeeded and Johnson and Phil Veltom almost got to the try line.

Maslen threatened with a mazy run but a pass to the winger found touch instead. The Park defence buckled from the force of Johnson, Veltom, Tom Belcher and Jack Bentall and Dickin rounded off good handling by diving over for Chi’s second try, converted by Anscombe.

Soon after, Harry Seaman body-swerved and offloaded to Wallace to show his pace. Bentall charged up, took the pass and hurtled through tackles to go over at the right corner flag. The excellent referee took a few seconds to look and decided the ball was grounded.

The conversion by Anscombe drifted just wide but it was 20-12.

The remainder of the game took place in the Park half but Chi were unable to add more points from their possession. One exciting attack featured a Blount lineout catch and a break from halfway with Johnson, Sean Shepherd and Belcher at great speed for big men.

Chi declined a second easy penalty to go for the corner and Miller and Davies went close before Park kicked clear. Sadly just before the end Seaman left the pitch with a wrist injury to add to the knee injury suffered by Ben Deavall in the first half. Best wishes go to them and also Rhys Thompson and Alex Grace, who suffered serious injuries during the season. Chi hope to see them back in due course.

Chi beat three top six teams at Oaklands Park. It was their poor away form which let them down. They earned 16 bonus points, seven of which came from lost games. They can be optimistic for the future.

Chichester: Deavall, Shepherd, Veltom, Blount, Davies, Dickin, Wallace, Johnson, Anscombe, Adams, Miller, Bentall, Cook, Robson, Maslen, Belcher, Arden-Brown, Seaman.

ROGER GOULD

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