Cobham burst Blues’ bubble

Chichester's Henry Anscombe on the attack against Cobham / Picture by Kate Shemilt
Chichester's Henry Anscombe on the attack against Cobham / Picture by Kate Shemilt

After their Lord Mayor’s Show last week, Chichester RFC’s winning bubble was burst in dramatic fashion as they lost 41-27 to Cobham.

As they did in 2014, Cobham beat them by using fast and effective counter attacks against a vulnerable defence in open play. Chi had much more possession and territory but their tackling was poor and the visitors took full advantage, Three of their tries came from route-one breaks. 
They were inspired by experienced players Luke Flower and Tom Farrelly,,the latter kicking 16 points. Chi took the lead early in the second half by playing to their strengths in the forwards and they should have continued  to keep it very tight, but they became adventurous again and Cobham fed on their mistakes. This was a hard lesson but tactically Chi got it wrong. The final margin was five converted tries and two penalties to four tries, two conversions and a penalty. The Blues slipped to third place in the league.
Chi were weakened by absences but young players Sam Drayson at prop and Ollie Charlish at flanker made debuts. There was a good start with Chris Johnson, Drayson and Jack Bentall driving forward and winger Nat Jackson tackled into touch. Then came the first mistake with a spilt ball and a gap exploited. Richard Adams got back to tackle but the offload was good to fly-half Flower on the shoulder and he scored around the posts. It was easily converted. 
A long kick by Henry Anscombe gave a lineout and drive maul but the visitors resisted and a lofted kick to the right wing by Adams went too far. Anscombe ran 30 metres but was tackled as he dived across and knocked on. Chi pressed again and from the back of a solid scrum the ball was passed out to left winger Ben Robson for a try at the corner. The big conversion by Anscombe made it 7-7. 
Cobham attacked but knocked on for Chi to clear. Simon Pinhorne’s lineout catch and smooth handling by the backs nearly brought a try by Adams. A penalty was awarded for a prior offence and Anscombe made it 10-7.  
Then came a bad mistake when Cobham’s drop-out was messed up by Chi, and with some quick passes Cobham steamed through the middle for lock Van Der Ploeg to touch down behind the posts. Converted. 
Robson was away with a long run but he was brought down just short as Cobham covered well. A Chi penalty to Vulture’s Corner led to Charlie Wallace scoring. A second excellent conversion by Anscombe made it 17-14.
Full back Tom Hutchin made a very good clearance to touch but a Cobham scrum moved the ball across left for another far too easy break through the centre and a try for Clements by the posts. Converted. To add salt to the wound, Chi went offside at a Cobham scrum and the penalty was slotted. It was 24-17 at the interval.
Blues meant business after the break. Strong attacks were launched with Bentall, Wallace, Martin O’Callaghan and Johnson at the forefront. A huge defensive effort by Cobham held up Johnson over the line. But from the five-metre scrum, Wallace took a pass to crash over. The conversion looked over but was ruled out.- 22-24. 
Chi pressure continued with Tom Belcher and Phil Veltom breaking tackles but a knock-on spoilt things. Two more knock-ons wasted chances. O’Callaghan had a useful gallop which brought a penalty from 40 metres which missed. Cobham continued to tackle hard but were unable to hold the Chi lineout and a drive over by Belcher. The conversion was missed - 27-24.
It seemed Blues would win the contest but there was always the lurking danger and Cobham showed their determination. Good handling by the backs and a kick to the right wing found Chi all at sea and from a cut inside, Flower crossed the try line and conversion was added.
Chi were frustrated and although Adams tried another long kick to get back to the Cobham corner it went long for a Cobham drop out. The Surrey men now had their tails up. A deliberate knock-on by Chi gave another successful penalty and with the score 27-34 and five minutes left Chi could only expect a losing bonus to add to their try bonus. 
But even that was snatched from them. A kick over the top by Cobham meant a race to the line by Anscombe and his opposite number which the Chi man won but a cruel bounce of the ball took it away from him into the gleeful hands of Saunders to score. The conversion completed a deserved win of 41-27 to the impressive Cobham.
This week Chi travel to Kent to play Gravesend (2.30pm). All support welcome as Chi try to recover from this disappointment.
Chichester: Drayson, Belcher, Veltom, O’Callaghan, Pinhorne, Charlish, Wallace, Johnson, Anscombe, Adams, Robson, Bentall, Lynch, Jackson, Hutchin, Woods, Wilcock, Seaman.

ROGER GOULD

* Chichester Praetorian Guard - a Chi select side predominantly featuring under-23 players - are playing the Royal Navy U23s at Oaklands Park next Wednesday (Oct 11, 7pm). All supporters are welcome to what should be a quality game.

This was a hard lesson but tactically Chi got it wrong.