Chichester are one good weekend away from rugby play-offs

Picture by Louise Adams C130512-3 Spt Rug Chi Gos
Picture by Louise Adams C130512-3 Spt Rug Chi Gos

Chichester beat Gosport & Fareham 29-0 at Oaklands Park in London one south to set up a nail-biting last weekend.

Both teams deserve high praise for battling against pouring rain, a strong wind and a pitch which became a mudbath.

Chichester pulled away in the second half after a gruelling first 40 minutes when it was trench warfare between well-matched packs.

They won by five tries and two conversions and set a new club record in the league with 21 wins from 25. They completed their home fixtures with just one defeat from 13.

Basingstoke gained maximum points against Wimbledon so the Blues travel to Dover this Saturday when the runners-up position will be decided.

Stoke travel to face champions East Grinstead with a three-point lead over Chichester. What a finish to this exciting season.

Supporters took refuge under any shelter they could find as the match began. Play was compressed between the 22s on the north touchline as the elements did their worst.

Gosport were tough opponents on the ground and had a terrritorial edge forcing Richard Adams and Toby Golds to make big clearance kicks. Lineouts ,mauls and rucks were forgettable but Chi scored from an unusually-clean lineout catch and drive, Niall Goldie touching down.

They conceded several penalties and the referee decided to show no mercy. Between the 27th and 35th minutes he brandished three yellow cards and Chichester set a new unwelcome record of being down to 12 men.

This was a great chance for Gosport but they failed to get the ball wide enough and ran into hard tackles in the centre.

Chi survived with astute covering and with five minutes left advaced to the right corner again. It was Gosport’s turn to lose a man for infringing and Nick Blount caught and delivered from a lineout for Andy Gray to drive over.

At half-time it was 10-0 and the players ran for cover.

Henry Anscombe replaced Billy Toone, who had received a knock and was groggy. Nick Shopland and Ben Polhill also came off the bench.

Chichester were attacking their favourite clubhouse end and Jack Bentall made a half break. The ball was shipped into the centre, where Phil Veltom took a pass on the charge.

He made good ground and offloaded perfectly to Goldie on his shoulder, the flanker diving across near the posts. It was converted by Adams for a 17-0 lead.

The Gosport scrum half tried to get his back line in a position to penetrate but tackles and knock-ons spoiled chances and Golds intervened to send them back with his clearance.

The Blues clicked with good handling and combination between forwards and backs, now used to the slippery ball. A superb move featuring Adams, Jon Lindsay, Gray and Veltom gave Anscombe the chance to show his skill with a switch of direction to get him across the line for the fourth and bonus-point try. The conversion kick hit the post and bounced out.

Gosport continued to compete but Chi were in the driving seat and the match was won. The final try was another driving and passing effort with Lindsay finishing it off with a strong run to the posts. A conversion made it 29-0.

The visitors were fit and exerted pressure in the Chi 22 but the defence were excellent and the clean sheet was preserved.

Golds made a remarkable scoop off the ground and the Blues were on the attack as full-time arrived. Congratulations to the players and spectators for putting up with the monsoon.

Dover are always hard to beat on their own ground but they have lost four games there and Chichester have the confidence and ability to win. Head coach Rob Lawrence will prepare them well and they will be fully focussed.

It’s a long way to the Kent coast but support would be much appreciated - kick-off 3pm.

CHICHESTER: Wheeler, Giddings, Veltom, Lindsay, Blount, Goldie, Gray, Kasujja, Toone, Adams, Bentall, Cook, Jackson, Robson. Golds. Reps: Shopland, Polhill, Anscombe.

ROGER GOULD