CHICHESTER won a hard-fought and very entertaining London one south game away to Sutton and Epsom 38-20.
They managed six tries and four conversions to the hosts’ three tries, a conversion and a penalty.
After taking a 17-0 lead they were clever enough to keep at least two scores ahead of dangerous opponents who fought back in the second half.
It brought another bonus point for Blues, who have now won six consecutive matches to forge a lead at the top of the division.
Four players returned to the squad from injury, including scrum-half Billy Toone, who had an outstanding game.
Early midfield kicking gave possession away but Toone, Mark Giddings and Lewis Harte made good yards. Sutton missed a penalty for offside and Phil Dickin stopped an attack with a firm tackle.
From a Chi scrum, Toone broke through and ran 40 metres. He drew the full-back and his pass sent right-winger Tom Jackson to the line for the first try.
Chi’s maul went a long way but Sutton robbed them and surged to Chi’s half. A lineout and drive by Blues gave quick ball to the backs and outside-centre Ryan Doyle broke a hard tackle to go under the posts, Henry Anscombe converting.
A cut-out pass to full-back Dean Morris and on to Harte saw the left-winger tackled into touch five metres out. More pressure saw Moses Kasujja carry strongly.
When tackled, the ever-present Ben Polhill scooped the ball brilliantly and crashed over. Although rattled, Sutton launched a determined attack with a kick to the try line by right winger Cartledge which he followed past a loose Chi defence to gather and touch down.
The referee had mproblems with the scrums with too many resets as a result, and he made some interesting decisions. Just before the break, Jack Bentall in the centre was penalised for either crossing or obstruction when lock Nick Blount was carrying forward. Hurley kicked the three points to make it 17-8 to Blues at the break.
They had dominated in the set-pieces and had taken their chances clinically but the hosts would not roll over - and were much improved in the second 40 minutes.
Chi had lost hooker Giddings to injury and Doyle was also to limp off. Chi attacked but lost a lineout, a sign of things to come.
A lineout and drive failed and Sutton won a penalty to clear. Anscombe suddenly put a long, low kick along the touchline which Harte chased to gather and score dramatically in the corner. Anscombe converted from wide out.
Sutton hit back immediately and when Chi lost the ball after a maul, centre Cook went through a gap to score and Hurley added the extras - 24-15.
Sutton were disrupting the Blues’ lineout and in scrums, their front row showed how to heel the ball against the head. It was a little worrying at this point but Chi countered.
Anscombe nearly landed a 45m penalty before they pressed in the 22. Toone took a quick tap penalty, and a pass to Chris Johnson saw him carry and pass to Harte for his second try at the corner. A fine conversion by Anscombe made it 31-15.
Sutton came again, with feisty lock Symonds now ruling lineouts. A fast backs move with good hands was spoilt by a knock-on but another excellent passing move gave Cook his second try near the right corner.
Chichester had Johnson to thank with big hits as Sutton strove to get a losing bonus point. In the last ten minutes with Giddings back on the pitch, Chi stirred for a last flourish.
The pack advanced to the Sutton 22 and shoved them back. Kasujja went left from the back row and the ball was spun across for Toone to link at the wing and go across for the sixth try. A terrific Anscombe conversion brought the curtain down and Blues and their supporters were well pleased.
Chichester will need to maintain consistently the form they showed in the first half to win promotion from this league but they showed they can cope with the inevitable pressure which will be exerted by quality opponents.
This week they are home to struggling Staines. All support welcome.
CHICHESTER: Turner, Giddings, Veltom, Blount, Dickin, Goldie, Polhill, Kasujja, Toone, Anscombe, Harte, Bentall, Doyle, Jackson, Morris, Belcher, Johnson, Cook.