CHICHESTER fell to a 34-17 defeat to Westcliff in their final home league match of the season.
Westcliff came to Oaklands Park knowing that only a win would do. Despite picking up five points they still find themselves in the relegation battle with Amersham & Chiltern and Tring also winning.
To sum up, Westcliff knew what they had to do and did it well – and Chichester played badly for most of the game.
The Essex men won by four converted tries and two penalties to three tries and one conversion. The Blues received four yellow cards (one converted to red) and conceded 20 penalties.
They were outmuscled in the scrum and their lineout was erratic. Their backs scored good tries but they missed other chances due to basic mistakes.
The visitors’ scrum half Parmenter had a great afternoon and kicked 14 points. It was Chi’s fourth consecutive defeat, the worst run for many seasons.
These are the grim statistics and it was disappointing for home supporters in the last game at Oaklands and in fine weather on a dry pitch.
There is sympathy for Chi’s problems with squad shortage and nothing to strive for except mid-table. But there can be no excuse for the indiscipline which meant they had one or two men off the pitch for a total of half the game.
The referee showed he would be very strict from early on and it was vital for Chi to take heed, even if he did miss one or two sins by Westcliff such as a prop failing to bind properly.
Westcliff had to win to avoid the threat of relegation and it was clear they would be up for it. Chi were without Phil Veltom, Ken Dowding and Phil Dickin in addition to their four other forwards still on the injury list.
Henry Anscombe replaced the injured Ed Durkin at scrum half, Joe Woods came in at tight head prop, Rich Neil at lock and Pete Meachin moved to flanker. Nick Shopland, Charlie Wallace and Danny Gray formed the bench.
The Westcliff scrum was dominant from the start and Chi went backwards, conceding penalties under pressure. Anscombe cleared well and a backs move saw Leon Driscoll forced into touch.
Another penalty gave the first points to Westcliff. Driscoll dropped a high kick, and Westcliff advanced to win a penalty. Although Parmenter’s penalty was his only miss it drifted just wide of the right post and the bonus was a knock on by Chi as they tried to pick up behind the try line.
This gave the visiting pack licence to hammer from several five-metre scrums with Chi frantically infringing. Woods was sinbinned and replaced by Nick Shopland, Driscoll exiting to the bench.
After two more scrums the referee gave the penalty try but before the conversion in front an almighty and disgraceful fight broke out. Most of the players joined in before final separation. The referee consulted for some time with his two assistants and decided one man from each side had to get yellow cards. Sadly Shopland drew the short straw with Westcliff’s prop Binneman.
This meant uncontested scrums for a while, which was helpful to Chi. Tom Belcher, Ben Robson and Aaron Lowe combined in attack but danger man Lowe was tackled into touch. They ran again with Joe Shopland forcing a position in the centre.
This set up swift handling by Richard Adams and Robson to send Lowe over after a silky 30me run to the posts. Anscombe converted, 7-10.
At a lineout Chi knocked on their own throw and Westcliff took full advantage, driving to the line for full back Argentieri to get across. Converted 7-17. Adams made a superb break across the field and along the right touch but his inside pass was deemed forward. Blues continued to be penalised for a variety of things as they tried to win possession on the ground.
Neil and Ben Polhill carried strongly and Chi pressed with a driving maul. Anscombe passed quick ball out to Robson who ran powerfully and dived across at the right corner. Conversion missed. Neil and Jon Lindsay exchanged passes but a knock-on spoilt good work. At the break Westcliff deserved their 17-12 lead.
Both teams restored to full complement, Westcliff turned the screw in the scrums again and flanker Smith was nearly over. The ball was recycled and sent out to the centre where it went to ground.
It was scooped up and there was still time for winger Jones to beat poor cover and score at the right flag. Converted, 12-24. Chi went back with Lowe prominent but they were penalised for holding on in the tackle.
Chi were awarded a very rare penalty and Ben Polhill sent Belcher on his way towards the line but he lost the ball. Chi were offside at the rear of a scrum and from penalty kick and lineout, Westcliff mauled into the corner, No8 Reynolds getting the touchdown. Another fine conversion, 12-31.
Adams came away with a promising counter-attack but was forced out again. Then disaster when Woods received a second yellow and his red for attempting to step dangerously close to an opponent on the ground.
Shortly after Ben Polhill received a yellow for pulling down in a lineout. Chi were now down to 13 for the last 15 minutes and the match was lost.
The backs tried hard but knocked on in front of the posts. Westcliff countered and won another penalty 30 metres out, easily slotted, 12-34.
There were more errors but in the last attack Chi showed excellent handling each side of the pitch and Danny Gray’s pass split the last defence for fly half Alex Marsh to score at the posts.
Tom Polhill attempted the conversion with a drop kick and somehow missed. It summed up Chi’s afternoon.
This week the Blues face a daunting visit to London Irish Amateur, who have an outside chance of a play-off for promotion. All support is welcome to see Chi play at a new ground near Sunbury-on-Thames which has the latest G4 all weather pitch. Kick off 3p.m.
Chi squad: Woods, J Shopland, Belcher, Neil, Lindsay, Meachin, B Polhill (capt), A Gray, Anscombe, Marsh, Driscoll, T Polhill, Lowe, Robson, Adams. Reps: N Shopland, Wallace, D Gray