Blues turn red - and fire on all cylinders to beat Brighton

Chris Johnson leads the charge for Chichester (red stripes) against Brighton   Picture by Louise Adams C131249-8
Chris Johnson leads the charge for Chichester (red stripes) against Brighton Picture by Louise Adams C131249-8

Chichester started the new rugby season with a hard-fought win against a strong Brighton team, scoring four tries and two conversions to a try and two penalties.

They came back well after being 11 points behind in the first half when they made many mistakes and the visitors looked the better side.

A crucial score just before the interval gave them the confidence to regroup and run in three more good tries in the second half, collecting a bonus point before the final whistle.

The Blues had to change their strip because of a colour clash and became the Reds. They were missing several players but three young recruits, Tom Belcher, Ed Durkin and Rory Tanner made impressive debuts.

Billy Toone was captain in the absence of the injured Jon Lindsay, and at fly half was Henry Anscombe, whose safe hands and inch-perfect line kicking were outstanding.

He is now off to university in Leeds and Chichester wish him well.

The pitch was hard despite earlier rain and the sun dazzled the Reds at the kick-off, losing the ball and meeting trouble before Toone rescued them.

Brighton probed and full-back Finch kicked a penalty, given for Chichester not releasing on the ground.

Some more pressure on their 22 came before outside centre Sam Renwick broke out with a fast 40m run, his pass to the left wing going astray with the try line begging.

Brighton missed a penalty from near touch as the Reds continued to look nervy and lacking cohesion. Finch made it 6-0 with another penalty after 18 minutes and Brighton were moving the ball around creatively, nearly scoring when Chichester missed a tackle.

A fourth penalty was missed, followed at last by a united attack by Chichester which was stopped by good defence. A first forward drive saw Chris Johnson in possession at the rear but they were held up.

Brighton advanced and from a free kick 20m out, lock forward Edwards received a quick pass, shook off a tackle and charged over for the first try wide out – conversion missed.

Chi knew they had to reply promptly and they did. They went on the attack, suffered twice from knock-ons, but finally Anscombe spun the ball out and quick hands gave Renwick some space to send an accurate pass for right winger Tanner to finish in style at the corner.

The conversion was just missed and it was 11-5 at the break. Chi trooped off to get the predictable advice and returned to show team spirit, speed and clinical finishing.

They kicked a penalty to Vulture’s Corner and two accurate lineout throws were caught by high-jumping Nick Blount. The ball was whipped to the backs, No8 Johnson joining on a good line, breaking through and outmuscling the last defenders. Anscombe converted and Chi had their noses in front at 12-11.

From the drop-out, Chi knocked on and Brighton launched a dangerous attack which was stopped only by a huge Johnson tackle.

At the other end, the hosts lost a five-metre scrum but Brighton made a fatal mistake when they hacked a loose ball and it went straight to the Chi backs. It was gratefully seized and across it went tooutside centre Renwick. He still had a lot to do but he was in top gear and he cut inside to beat the last ditch tackle.

Brighton were still in with a chance and were fast on the counter attack. Chi were now under the cosh for several minutes but their defence was disciplined and held firm against strong pressure near their line.

The Brighton right winger was forced out and then Finch made a brilliant swerving run for 50m before he was cut down ten metres out with the line gaping.

Full-back Tim Cook pulled off another try-saving tackle for Anscombe to scramble back and make a 30m clearance to touch with an overhead kick and despite attackers almost on his back.

This ended Brighton’s last big effort and Chichester took over with determination. They swept again to the left corner and the backs thrust left and right from good ball provided by their driving forwards who were now on top of their opposite numbers after a great battle.

Powerful inside-centre Jack Bentall was checked just in time and it took a three-man tackle to stop Johnson and send him airborne.

From a scrum on the 22, Durkin popped the ball to Cook accelerating on the blindside and he scored a fine try with an arcing run and touchdown behind the posts. Anscombe converted.

Chichester finished on the Brighton line, the forwards controlling and seemingly scoring, but the referee ruled they were held up and blew the final whistle.

After quite a struggle, both sides deserved the applause from a large crowd. Brighton should do well in this league and Chi will want to make things a little easier by having a better first half-hour at Havant this Saturday (3pm). All support welcome.

CHICHESTER: Wheeler, Gingell, Belcher, Grace, Blount, Dickin, Goldie, Johnson, Toone, Anscombe, Jackson, Bentall, Renwick, Tanner, Cook, Giddings, Davies, Durkin.

Chichester seconds also had a win, 12-5 over Rosslyn Park 3rd XV.

ROGER GOULD

Chichester first-XV coach Rob Lawrence said: “We were still very rusty, but some of our defensive patterns really started to take shape in the second half, as well as more clinical and focused approach in our attack.

“We were missing some senior players and when they return to the squad we will have an even stronger competition for places, an that can only be a good thing.

“We are very pleased to be back to league rugby with a five-point win, but we all know how much work there is in front of us. Our aspirations are to win the league title and we are under no illusions it isn’t won on a sunny afternoon at Oaklands Park in week one.

“We were also very pleased the twos got their Canterbury Shield national reserve league debut season off to a flying start against English rugby stalwarts Rosslyn Park. A young, pacy team played with freedom and confidence, meaning every position is up for grabs again this week.”