Displaying favoured attacking rugby, Chichester won a pulsating see-saw London one south game against Basingstoke in the last seven minutes of intense excitement.
Basingstoke were wiped out in the first half and at 21-6 to the home team it looked all over. But Stoke staged an amazing comeback and went a point ahead before Blues clinched the win and bonus point with a final try and a penalty.
Chi have maximum points from four games and the signs are promising.
The Blues were without four regular players so Luke Davies came in at prop, Nathan Bond made his debut at full-back, Harry Seaman moved to scrum-half, Tom Polhill was right winger and Josh Hutchinson on the bench.
Lock Jack Taggart was back after long-term injury.
The warm weather and hard pitch invited the running rugby which followed.
The first try took just under one minute to arrive – about 30 seconds longer than at Havant a week earlier.
Stoke knocked on from their kick-off and an advantage was played. Andy Gray received it and broke over halfway. He passed to Sam Renwick and the outside centre dummied the full-back, cut inside and sprinted 35m to score near the posts. Richard Adams added the extras.
After just three minutes, Niall Goldie delivered cleanly from the lineout, Adams made a half-break, Jack Bentall completed it and crashed over. Adams’ conversion made it an incredible 14-0.
Stoke woke up and fly-half Parsons kicked two penalties for Chichester offences at rucks. Bentall was stopped by a firm tackle but Chi seemed to score in the left corner.
The referee was unconvinced the ball had been grounded.
On 22 minutes a fast attack went through good hands and dynamic No8 Chris Johnson was in support to finish in style.
Ben Polhill was seizing the ball on the ground and he gave his opposite number a thumping tackle.
Bentall chased a long kick from Adams and touched down but he was over the dead-ball line.
Chi went offside in defence but Stoke missed a fairly-easy penalty. Chi had one more chance to score before the break but Stoke cleared.
The hosts were in the driving seat but Stoke are becoming known for their best form emerging in second periods.
The Blues restarted well and another Goldie catch gave Johnson a long run but the offload went to ground.
Stoke met firm tackles and were penalised for holding on the ground. Adams slotted three more points.
A dramatic change came when Stoke substitute Adam Davies took over at scrum-half. He soon showed vision and dancing feet to trouble Chi. Seaman and Ross Fairbairn had to tacklle well before Davies stepped past two defenders to score Stoke’s first try. The conversion was missed. They attacked again and despite a clear knock-on they were awarded a try by winger Buttle. It was converted to make it 21-18.
A Stoke player and Seaman were sin-binned for handbags and Bond moved to scrum-half. A high Stoke up and under was brilliantly caught by Fairbairn and Bond knocked an attacker up in the air with a crunching tackle.
In the 70th minute Adams was successful with a 35m penalty but Stoke would not be denied and Davies jinked both ways to put No8 Ford across. With the conversion, Stoke had scored 22 points in just over 20 minutes and had taken the lead. The Blues dug deep and their determination and team spirit carried them forward. The ball was spun crossfield for Johnson to penetrate and Fairbairn held.
Stoke were penalised, Adams spiralled the ball into Vulture’s Corner and after a lineout and take by Aaron Davies, the drive went in and Johnson hared down the blindside to score at the flag, accompanied by a roar of delight and relief by the Chi supporters.
The conversion was missed but in the last play, a 40m penalty by Adams sailed straight through the uprights.
This was a great game - one of the best seen at Oaklands and one which will dwell in the memory.
Director of rugby Paul Colley said: “It was hard fought and I thought we did a terrific job against a good team. We had to rearrange our squad but those stepping up did well and I think we deserved to win in the end.”
The Blues are at Haywards Heath on Saturday (3pm). All support welcome.
CHICHESTER: Davies, Gray, Woods, Davies, Taggart, Goldie, B Polhill, Johnson, Seaman, Adams, Fairbairn, Renwick, Bentall, T Polhill, Bond, Gingell, Wright, Hutchinson.