Blues’ season Judd-ers to halt, but it’s been a good one

Tonbridge Juddians and Chichester do battle / Picture by Michael Clayden
Tonbridge Juddians and Chichester do battle / Picture by Michael Clayden

Chichester had drawn a short straw for their last game and travelled to play the second-best team in National three London south east, Tonbridge Juddians.

They were without eight players through injury or unavailability so it was a makeshift squad including a trio of young men on the bench.

Regular captain Chris Johnson had been injured against Hertford and the amazing Ben Polhill deputised, completing his 20th season in the first XV.

The scrum and lineout were to play well throughout but TJs were much faster in open play, especially on counter attacks, probably inspired by their Kiwis.

They prospered with hard running and support at the shoulders, scoring seven tries and four conversions to Chi’s consolation try and two first-half penalty conversions - winning 43-11.

On a dry but chilly day in Kent, the Blues looked promising and attacked for a few minutes. But TJs robbed the ball and broke through the centre. A tackle was made but the ball went backwards and a quick pick-up and transfer to the right wing brought the first try, which was converted.

The emphasis has been to select local players as Chi will always be a community club and they look forward to continuing support when they restart in September.

Chi advanced again but the counter was immediate and despite tackles by Phil Veltom and Rhys Thompson, slick TJs passing put the right winger across.

Jon Lindsay had to go off injured and then Thompson made a half-break but was heavily tackled and damaged his shoulder. He was unable to continue and Chi lost their dangerous inside centre.

Richard Adams started a sustained attack and Chi pressed in the TJs’ 22 after winning a scrum against the head. Outside-centre Jack Maslen made a break and Chi won a penalty at the ruck. Henry Anscombe kicked the three points. They pushed into the left corner but TJs held them and cleared.

Winger Tom Jackson had a typical strong run from midfield, forcing an infringement at the breakdown but a penalty was missed.

Another penalty but this one went over from Anscombe.

Chi had been on top for ten minutes. Then came a crucial score for TJs to resume business.

Chi dropped the ball from a drop-out and a good scrum gave TJs quick ball to score a classy try, a loop move finished by a clever angled run by their outside centre. Converted. They were then stopped by a great catch and clearance by full-back Danny Kirkpatrick.

Chi, 19-6 down at the interval, had played with energy and spirit and were still in the game.

Unfortunately the Blues made a fatal mistake early in the second period. From their own scrum in front of their posts they tried to float the ball to the left wing but gave a forward pass.

TJs scrummed and spun the ball out for the left winger to beat a last tackle and score at the corner flag.An excellent conversion from the touchline made it 26-6.

Polhill, Jackson and Maslen all made ground but TJs defended competently. Veltom made a huge tackle to turn over another thrust in the 22. Maslen was forced out after a diagonal sprint and Jack Knight cheered Chi supporters with a canter along the left touchline.

TJs showed how to do it with a kick over the top, regaining the ball from a fumble and switching play to the right at top speed for their fifth try.

Polhill evaded tacklers and launched a forwards drive. They were just repelled twice with Anscombe nearly sniping across and finally Fijian prop Vadei pressed down over the line.

TJs’ nippy scrum-half broke through and despite a brave tackle by Kirkpatrick, the offload was successful and the score became 36-11.

The Blues continued to battle. Maslen made two more exciting runs but an overlap on the left was missed and he was tackled just short.

TJs gave a last demonstration of counter-attacking skill with penetration in the centre to score and convert. To their great credit, Chi were still running as the match ended 43-11.

Chi have finished tenth in the league, winning ten and losing 16. But five of the losses were by five points or fewer. They had great wins against Westcombe Park, Guernsey and Wimbledon and won five games in a row to avoid a relegation threat.

Head Coach Rob Lawrence and his colleagues worked hard to guarantee another season in National three, which is highly competitive and demanding.

The emphasis has been to select local players as Chi will always be a community club and they look forward to continuing support when they restart in September.

CHICHESTER: Vedia, Greyvensteyn, Woods, Veltom, Dowding, Giddings, Polhill, Lindsay, Anscombe, Adams, Jackson, Thompson, Maslen, Knight, Kirkpatrick, Norton, Khemish, Colley.

ROGER GOULD

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