CHICHESTER travelled to Gravesend for a top-of-the-table clash knowing that although the city side led the league by two points, it would be a massive challenge with Gs dispatching recent opponents at their home ground by large margins.
The Blues set forth with big second row Nick Blount missing through injury and the highly-influential centre Jack Bentall unavailable.
Chichester made several other changes from the previous week, bringing in experience and power in the form of back row trio Moses Kasujja, Chris Johnson and Ben Polhill.
The home crowd did not have long to voice their support as within three minutes the black and whites showed their intent with a powerful early scrum drive; Gs moved the ball well and with one missed tackle they scored wide right.
Although the conversion was missed, the speed of movement signalled to Chi, that if they didn’t know before, Gs were a very dangerous outfit.
Blues breathed deeply and gradually worked their way down field – good lineout win by Dickin and the away side were driving forward. Gs infringed and Anscombe slotted the tricky 35 metre conversion with aplomb.
The Blues attacked again; a hefty tackle into touch saw things spill over and threaten to get out of hand. Both skippers were spoken to as the intensity rose to fever pitch.
Gravesend came back strongly, and, through their dominant scrum, gradually worked back upfield with Meddings bouncing several defenders aside, and, only a fantastic cover tackle by Goldie stopped a certain try.
With, two massive scrums on the Chi line, the first saw the big Gs eight held up, but from the second the forward power saw them over the line.
With ten minutes of the half to go, the Blues management brought on Turner at prop and Johnson to beef up the back row, replacing Polhill who had taken a nasty boot to the head. The scrum steadied and the lineout started to really function as the Blues tore back into Gs one power drive saw Chichester inches from the line – the Gs 7 killed the ball and was yellow carded.
From the next phase, Toone beat the defence from close range to dive over a simple conversion to bring the score to within two points. From a lineout, Turner was taken out off the ball and another card, saw Gs down to 13 men.
Doyle cut a great line, drew the cover to feed Driscoll, who used all his evasive skills to swerve past the last defender and score wide right to give his side a 15-12 lead at half-time.
In the second half, Johnson surged to the line using his power and seemed to be over, but, landing inches short, he showed exceptional slight of hand to offload to Anscombe, who darted into the left-hand corner and scored.
The Blues were now in the ascendency and with both carded players back on, there was a decision which could have swung the contest further in the Blues favour.
Replacement hooker Stevens came straight into the side of a ruck kicking the ball away – deep in the red zone, but only a penalty was given which Anscombe slotted over. The game now see-sawed with both sides gaining penalties. Anscombe just missed but Gs took two of theirs.
Gs upped the tempo and two successive penalties with the second converted and Belcher carded, brought the score back to 23-21 with only a few minutes left.
Another crucial decision went against Chichester as Anscombe was given offside in the backs, and, after an advantage was played and brought back, some 15 metres closer to the Blues’ posts giving a relatively simple three points as the home side took the lead.
The Blues who had showed massive heart throughout ran back hard and fashioned a last gaps penalty – but from the halfway line, Anscombes attempt fell just short leaving Gravesend to pinch a narrow 24-23 win and leapfrog Chichester at the top of the table.