Chichester’s 33-14 triumph over London Irish Amateurs was a truly brilliant performance by Chichester, arguably the best seen in many years against quality opponents.
The whole squad and their coaches are to be congratulated on preparing so well for this huge London one south game and producing the goods on the pitch.
For an hour LIA were completely outplayed because of the commitment, speed and clinical finishing of the home lads, who were pumped up and determined to win.
They scored 26 points in the first 25 minutes and LIA never recovered from the size of the shock. They did fare better in the last quarter and grabbed two consolation tries from mauls.
This very important win put Chichester into second place in the league on the same points as LIA but with a better points difference. It will be a close race to the finish and Chichester may have to win all their remaining nine games. It’s a tall order, but on this form they could do it.
Within three minutes Richard Adams had driven the greens into the corner with consecutive penalties. The lineout catch and drive was executed skilfully for hooker Lawrence to touch down and Adams converted with a fine kick from wide out.
Attacks continued and right winger Ross Fairbairn made good ground. A confident scrum and quick ball went to left winger Eddie Armah, who seared towards the try line before switching the ball inside to Adams to dive over for the second try.
The conversion was just wide, but it was 12-0 with six minutes gone. Moses Kasujja broke from the scrum and offloaded to Fairbairn who was forced out.
The Blues had shot down LIA, known as the Wildgeese, with hurricane force and looked as sharp as a razor. The visitors reached the middle of the pitch before they were met by a solid wall and a crunching Kasujja tackle.
Another excellent penalty to the corner by Adams, with his best kicking boots on, brought a drive by the forwards but it was held.
Billy Toone, Ben Polhill and Chris Johnson linked away from the back of the scrum and although the move was checked, Phil Veltom scooped the ball up and ran powerfully to score near the left corner. Adams added the extras to make it 19-0 after 18 minutes.
LIA advanced and gained a penalty from 45 metres but it drifted wide. Their captain Reilly tried to break away but was isolated and Chi pressed once more.
A penalty to touch and a quick transfer from Toone to Lawrence who put Kasujja on his way to the line for the fourth try. Adams obliged with the conversion.
Flanker McAllister won lineout ball to set up a thrust and touchline penalty for LIA but Chichester turned them over and Adams cleared. Just one more attempt was easily stopped as LIA made mistakes. Veltom was in the right place again to seize the ball from a tackle and demonstrate his bullocking run. Captain Kasujja broke a tackle to sprint 40m. He took on the full-back but was tackled well. An offload to a Blue in support would have resulted in a certain try but a sole wrong option in 40 minutes was the measure of Chichester’s superb first half.
Jack Smallman introduced himself to dangerous LIA No8 Mckinney with a shuddering tackle and marked him closely throughout.
Chichester won the ball on the opposition 22. Toone shipped it right and recycled left for Chris Johnson to juggle a final pass and crash over. Mr Reliable Adams launched his fourth successful conversion through the uprights.
LIA had only lost twice this season, and very narrowly to the league leaders. But they did start to show their skill.
The Blues brought on Josh Pszczonka, Jack Walker and Liam Ferguson.
Chichester’s backs ran strongly and Veltom was assisting his centres. Armah and Fairbairn demonstrated textbook tackles before Kasujja and Walker probed across field.
Chichester narrowly missed a 45m penalty and LIA at last got going. Adams and Smallman stopped counter-attacks.
LIA were pressing and Chichester conceded penalties. From two of these, LIA kicked to the corner and despite a big Walker clearance, a second rolling maul put prop Connor over.
LIA came again and when Johnson tackled firmly to break them up, the rolling maul was set up and Connor repeated the dose in the corner. Two good conversions were put away by full-back Prescott.
Chichester had tired but Toby Golds put in one more tackle to preserve the scoreline.
Referee Becky Smith had controlled the match well and blew to signal a famous triumph.
Delighted director of rugby Paul Colley said: “The first half-hour was all about our high intensity and speed, the best we’ve ever played against strong opponents who were at full strength and wanted to win this game as much as we did. The execution of our tries was first class. LIA came back hard in the last quarter to show their capabilities.’
Head coach Richard Isaac said of the backs: “They played really well and Richard Adams had an outstanding day with his kicking.”
This week (Feb 5) Chichester travel to Wimbledon (2.30pm).
CHICHESTER: Shopland, Lawrence, Veltom, Lindsay, Barlow, Johnson, B Polhill, Kasujja, Toone, Adams, Armah, T Polhill, Smallman, Fairbairn, Golds, Pszczonka, Ferguson, Walker.