Chichester 47 Thanet Wanderers 11
Scoring seven tries, three conversions and two penalties, they resisted a tough challenge in the tight and were faster and more creative in open play. They passed 100 tries for the season as full-back Toby Golds collected a hat-trick.
In their 12 game winning run their average score is 36-12, but London Irish stay stubbornly one point ahead of them in second place.
Within ten minutes, Richard Adams kicked two penalties and Eldridge one for Thanet. The Blues backs looked perky and wingers Eddie Armah and Paul Todd were brought into play.
Big forwards Chris Johnson and Scott Barlow set up a ruck and Steve McCluskey switched the ball cleverly to the blind side to send Johnson hurtling over for the first try. The conversion struck the upright.
A break by Adams and well-timed pass put Ross Fairbairn away in the centre. Another good pass was received by Golds to finish an impressive move. Adams added the extras and it was 18-3.
Chichester had problems with the high drop-out kick and were penalised for Eldridge to slot another three points for the visitors.
Thanet started to show mauling strength but were turned over for Jon Lindsay to make ground. Slick transfer and good hands by McCluskey and Rob Lawrence sent the supporting Golds across again but the conversion was narrowly missed.
A high kick by Adams was so well directed that Armah collected from first bounce and fed Fairbairn. The outside-centre went over and behind the posts to secure the conversion.
At 30-6 a bonus point had been secured after 33 minutes.
Thanet seized on a mistake to drive to the Chichester line and lock Harris grabbed a try. Handling errors by the Blues in midfield were forgotten when Phil Veltom and Johnson carried forward and offloaded to Barlow.
With the lineout won, Lawrence snatched the ball and raced 20m to dive into the left corner.
The Blues now had the chance to show why their defence is currently the best in the league. Their first test was against the Thanet maul. This time it was held after much wrestling and Chichester won possession.
Armah kicked a long touch and Barlow robbed the ball near the front of the lineout. The trademark drive went in and Lawrence got his second try, the conversion narrowly missed.
Veltom had to take an enforced rest so Johnson moved to hooker and Lawrence to prop. They were soon defending against two Thanet mauls in the corner and Johnson put in a huge tackle to halt the danger.
Replacement Ski Sauliga came on for his one appearance before his Army posting to Afghanistan.
Scrappy play led to a yellow card for Ben Polhill. Dave Steadman came off the bench and into the front row.
Adams ghosted past opponents. The offload to Armah sent him along the touchline but a tackle hit him against the corner flag and the try wasn’t allowed.
The next chance was taken as the Chichester drive sent the ball from left to right and Golds was in. He stumbled but retained the ball to force himself over at the second attempt. Adams’conversion made it 47-11.
Chichester had played with 14 men for nearly 20 minutes and had done well in refusing to concede a try.
Chichester’s front row of Shopland, Lawrence and Veltom had done a lot of spadework, Nick Blount and Barlow had won enough lineout ball in a keen contest, Moses Kasuujja had made his presence felt in two positions and the back row had linked efficiently with hard running backs.
The coaches will be well aware of one failing – the Blues give away too many penalties. The next game is on March 26 at Cobham (3pm) and all support is welcome as the Blues try to keep the pressure on London Irish Amateur, who visit Dover.
CHICHESTER: Shopland, Lawrence, Veltom, Blount, Barlow, Johnson, Polhill, Lindsay, McCluskey, Adams, Armah, Kasujja, Fairbairn, Todd, Golds, Steadman, Gray, Sauliga.