Blues show Hert and soul to win a rugby thriller

Ben Deavall claims a lineout as Chi get one over Hertford / Picture by Kate Shemilt
Ben Deavall claims a lineout as Chi get one over Hertford / Picture by Kate Shemilt

There was great celebration at Oaklands Park after Chichester caused the shock of the season in a thrilling contest, beating Hertford 30-22 for a vital victory in National three London south east.

They beat third-placed Hertford for the first time in six attempts in the league. Their forwards won a fierce battle against an experienced visiting pack and the whole team responded when Hertford came back early in the second half.

The game was won to big cheers from the Blues faithful. This was a memorable result.

The margin would have been bigger had Chi not gifted two tries. Their outstanding players were No8 Chris Johnson, who showed his strength and speed all over the pitch, and Taff Davies, who kicked six out of six from the tee.

Both sides scored three tries, Chi adding three conversions and three penalties, to Hertford’s two conversions and a penalty. The Blues are now one above the relegation slots, in 11th place, and have won four of their past six.

Hertford kicked off in sunshine but Chi attacked with quick lineout ball and a drive to the left for Harry Seaman to break two tackles.

Johnson and Jack Arden-Brown punched a hole and a prolonged series of pick-and-go from five metres resulted in a try by flanker Jack Bentall. Taff Davies converted from near the touchline.

A high kick by Jak Evans and lineout catch by Nick Blount set the backs running again but they were brought back for crossing.

The scrum was steady and Chi were beginning some lineout domination courtesy of accurate throws and strong lifts for Aaron Davies, Blount and Bentall.

After 15 minutes Johnson, Bentall, Alex Grace and Davies carried in big drives and won a penalty which was kicked confidently from 40m.

Hertford flickered into life but made basic handling mistakes. Chi won a second scrum against the head to put winger Matt Woodhouse on a run but he was well tackled.

The visitors upped their tempo and fly-half Lloyd displayed a classic dummy and sharp break which was dangerous but was spoilt by a subsequent bad pass. He repeated the dummy and the ball was passed with good hands for winger Allan to evade a poor tackle and race to score at Vultures’ Corner. The conversion fell short so it was 10-5.

The Chi scrum went backwards for the first time but they recovered and counter-attacked with Sam Renwick making good ground at outside centre.

Hertford turned the ball over and advanced to win a penalty but it was missed badly. Their hooker was knocked out in a nasty collision and had to leave the pitch.

Chi defended effectively and Henry Anscombe cleared with a long touch kick.

From another well drilled lineout the ball was whipped to the prowling Johnson, who launched himself and no-one could stop him accelerating to the line like an armoured car and scoring left of the posts. The conversion made it 17-5 at the interval.

The front row of Ben Deavall, Arden-Brown and Tauisi ‘Vee’ Vadei had done a great job but could now expect a Hertford comeback.

Grace stopped one thrust before a move to the left from the scrum where Allan had space to run in at the left flag. Lloyd converted from the touchline.

Chi hit back but a very unwise floated pass was intercepted on halfway by the jet-propelled right winger Creasey, who outpaced pursuers to score Hertford’s third try, easily converted by Lloyd. Suddenly it was 19-17 to Hertford.

For a lesser team, that might have been curtains. But with supporters behind them they showed their team spirit as they regained the upper hand.

Another bullocking run by Johnson set up position and then a change of direction. The ball went through the hands to Seaman, who used his bulk to beat last defence and he produced his famous swallow dive and smile to crash over at Vultures’ Corner. A fantastic conversion from the touchline came as Taff Davies used his reverse spin to move it between the uprights.

Chi defended hard and Grace stopped a half-break but Lloyd nailed a 40m penalty for a 24-22 lead. There was intense excitement as the rivals stood toe to toe.

Chi were winning at the breakdowns and rucks and the backs given service by the front five but unable to find any gaps.

Replacement lock Martin O’Callaghan steadied the scrums under pressure and he tackled to win a breakdown penalty.

A second penalty was kicked from 35m.

Despite a yellow card for Seaman kicking the ball away, Chi tightened their grip. Full-back Jack Maslen caught a high Hertford kick and started an attack, Hertford were caught offside and Anscombe kicked to touch.

Several mauls brought a penalty as Hertford resisted. Chi decided not to go to the corner to attempt to score a bonus fourth try, and Taff Davies calmly slotted the three points from 25m.

The game was won to big cheers from the Blues faithful. This was a memorable result. This week Chi travel back to Sutton and Epsom to play the match postponed 12 days ago. All support welcome.

Chichester: Deavall, Arden-Brown, Vadei, A Davies, Blount, Grace, Bentall, Johnson, Evans, Anscombe, Woodhouse, O Davies, Renwick, Seaman, Maslen, Richter, O’Callaghan, Robson.

ROGER GOULD

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