As expected, Hove’s visit to Chichester was a robust contest between fierce Sussex rivals.
Hove scrummaged better and had impressive backs but were finally beaten in ruck, maul and lineout as Chichester won the London one south encounter 41-18. Chichester scored six tries, four conversions and a penalty to two tries, a conversion and two penalties.
So an eighth win from eight for the Blues means they keep their five-point lead at the top. They have scored 310 points on the pitch, including 45 tries.
They were without key men Rob Lawrence and Phil Veltom in the pack, Mark Giddings and Dane Gingell replacing them, Richard Adams was welcomed back on the left wing.
The home team had a couple of free-kicks and scrums to take them within range but knocked on. A spilt pass gave Hove possession and a penalty to the corner. Chichester stopped them as they passed out the centre but were penalised for holding on. Fly-half Robertson slotted three points.
Chichester attacked with Billy Toone jinking past tackles and the pack driving. Hove went offside and Stuart Pearham’s kick levelled the score. A penalty to Hove at the scrum put them ahead again through Robertson.
A second wonderful sidestepping run by scrum-half Toone gained 40m, followed by a penalty kick into the right corner. The driving maul from the lineout overwhelmed defenders and Scott Barlow smacked down for the first try.
The second came quickly when the Blues ran with clever interpassing and Jamie Knowles received the ball. The fly-half went like a knife through butter from 25m to dot down near the posts. Pearham converted.
Hove replied after the dropout was knocked on. They won their scrum and shipped the ball across with good hands to young right winger Ball. He showed great pace and aided by invisible tackles by Chichester, sped along the touchline and round behind the posts. Robertson’s conversion made it 15-13.
The Blues tried another maul but a scrum was given to Hove and the danger cleared. A Hove backs move brought a high kick towards the try line which Toby Golds caught and marked bravely, clearing with a long touch kick.
The home pack drove hard and a penalty, lineout and unstoppable maul gave Gingell a classic front-row try. The conversion by Pearham made it 22-13 at half-time.
Toone, Barlow and the back row of Niall Goldie, Ben Polhill and Moses Kasujja were turning the screw. However, Hove’s back-line was dangerous and Chichester needed to deny them possession.
A high kick by Knowles caused problems and a resulting penalty went to Vulture’s Corner for Barlow to catch and drive over for the bonus-point try, Hove trying everything but in vain to stop the Blues’ tidal wave. A difficult conversion was narrowly missed.
Hove responded and applied pressure but Chichester defended strongly.
Kasujja and Jack Taggart came away with the ball and after Tom Polhill had put in a firm tackle, and Toone, Ben Polhill and Golds swept to the other end.
Chichester brought on replacements but raids were ended by firstly a turnover and then a scrum taken by Hove against the head. Success arrived when swift passing between Kasujja, Shopland, Gingell and Knowles gave the burly Tom Polhill the chance to penetrate and dive across. The conversion was by Knowles.
The sixth try resulted from an exchange of passes between Knowles and Kasujja which the big No8 finished off after brushing aside a desperate last tackle. Knowles added the extras.
Nick Shopland won applause as he sidestepped and ran a good ten metres on a Shopland ‘shimmy’.
Hove were not down and out, pushing Chichester back in scrums in the last few minutes and showing their fitness. They gained a deserved consolation try after pressure at the left corner.
Blues director of rugby Paul Colley said: “It was a typical derby – very physical. Despite our missing players and the scrum under pressure, we still managed front-foot ball and our backs changed their point of attack well, Tom Polhill having a strong game.
“Hove’s backs are fast but we contained their threat.”
This week the Blues travel to face Trojans at Eastleigh. All support is welcome.
CHICHESTER: Gingell, Giddings, Shopland, Barlow, Taggart, Goldie, B Polhill, Kasujja, Toone, Knowles, Adams, T Polhill, Robson, Golds, Pearham, Corrigan, Dickin, O’Callaghan.