Rugby: Chichester miss out on trophy as East Grinstead net top treble

East Grinstead won an exciting end-to-end Sussex Trophy final 31-19 against Chichester - and clinched a unique treble of promotion, the National Intermediate Cup and the Sussex Trophy.

Chichester made a very strong comeback after trailing 18-0 and with 15 minutes left had pulled up to 21-19 with their pack well on top. But a penalty and a brilliant counter-attack leading to a final try sealed the win for Gs.

Chichester paid the price for giving away four kickable penalties - two for offside, two for ruck offences - and it cost them 12 points.

Gs fly-half Rick McKenna, capped by New Zealand at under-20 level, slotted the penalties plus two conversions and set up their tries.

The Blues scrum became dominant after the first half-hour and drove hard to get three tries but apart from a sparkling performance by scrum-half Billy Toone, the backs made little progress against hard tackling.

On a bright day in front of a large crowd, the Blues were without their regular props and No8 who were replaced by Matt Corrigan, Joe Woods and Ski Sauliga.

Gs went ahead after a minute through a defensive mix-up which produced a penalty for offside following a rebound.

Both sides were penalised at the rucks and Mckenna was stopped by a firm tackle before Chi flexed their muscles and won a scrum against the head.

Richard Adams received a quick throw from touch and ran 40m unopposed from halfway. He seemed to have beaten the scrambing full-back for a first score, but the assistant referee ruled foot in touch.

Nick Blount rose high to capture a Gs throw and a Gs attack by the back-line was tackled on the wing and Chichester cleared from smooth lineout ball.

Chichester won another Gs scrum and battled for midfield supremacy. An offside decision gave Gs three more points.

A perfect high kick by McKenna deceived Chi defenders and bounced neatly into the hands of onrushing outside centre Downey. He showed good pace to finish with style and the conversion was slotted.

Before the Blues could recover the Kiwi did it again. He broke from his own half and stepped outside and inside brittle tackles, timing his pass to put winger Daly in to score in the corner. The conversion missed but Chichester trailed 18-0.

They had to lift themselves and to their great credit they did so with hard work and determination. Fly-half Stuart Pearham put a penalty into the right corner and the pack mauled to the Gs’ try line. They were held twice illegally but penalties gave scrum and lineout for Scott Barlow to start the final driving maul and a try for hooker Rob Lawrence was due reward. The conversion went wide and it was 18-5 at the break.

Toone made a typical aggressive run swatting tackles and a resulting drive maul was killed by Gs scrum half Pysden who was sin-binned.

The Blues forwards pressed again and their maul rumbled to the line before Gs collapsed it. A penalty try was awarded and Pearham added extras. Gs replied with another dangerous move and kicked another penalty.

Replacements came on for both sides and both Gs props were injured. The Chi pack put Gs under the cosh again with kicks to touch giving them 5m scrums.

A good chance went begging through a dropped ball but pressure resumed and an attack by right-winger Sevi with Ben Polhill supporting was forced into touch.

A big drive went in and the whole pack crashed over with Polhill grounding the ball. The conversion made it 21-19.

However, a mistake led to Gs going to the Chi 22 and kicking their fourth penalty. A Blues scrum pushed to within five metres from the try line with the ball at the feet of back row Andy Gray, Sauliga and Polhill.

Gs were buckling and a try or penalty try was on the cards. The referee puzzled Chi supporters by stopping the action and awarding them a penalty.

Chi spilt the ball from the next scrum and the killer blow came from a superb counter attack by Gs with McKenna making the break and the ball passed at great speed through several pairs of hands, finishing with a try near the posts by Keyworth.

Chichester will feel very pleased with their young players who stepped up and showed great potential, who will be knocking on the door next season.

The Blues hold their awards dinner at their clubhouse on June 9. They will be wishing Scott Barlow all the best as he leaves to join Worthing after a successful season.

CHICHESTER: Corrigan, Lawrence, Woods, Barlow, Blount, Gray, Polhill, Ski, Toone, Pearham, Adams, Deed, Smallman, Sevi, Golds, Gingell, Davies, Dickin, Grace, Wagstaff, Robson, Kirkpatrick.

ROGER GOULD