A pulsating game of two halves at Dorking was almost won by Chichester after a great comeback from a 33-5 deficit.
If the National three London south east game had lasted five more minutes the Blues might have achieved the seemingly-impossible, having been well on top and winning the second 40 minutes 28-12.
As it was, they lost because of a nightmare last 20 minutes of the first half when they conceded four tries from Dorking’s fast counter attacks with clinical finishing.
The final margin was six tries and four conversions to five tries and four conversions. The Blues deserved their two bonus points from this narrow defeat.
Chi had to make several changes – Chris Johnson will be out for at least two months because of serious injuries. But they welcomed back lock Nick Blount after more than a year out, in which he has been much missed.
Chi made an immediate impact through their forwards. Jon Lindsay and Martin O’Callaghan worked to the left and then Henry Anscombe switched right for centre Rhys Thompson to break through on an angled run and score after two minutes.
They tried hard to get a winning try but Guest was somehow denied at the corner flag by a last tackle.
They pressed again and Dorking were in early trouble in scrum and lineout, Blount jumping high. Aaron Davies was held up from a drive to the line and two more chances went begging because of a wrong option and then losing the ball at the critical moment.
Dorking stirred and showed their pace with their impressive fly-half starting to pull the strings. Blues received a yellow card at the breakdown and Dorking capitalised with crisp handling and found the overlap for a score near the right corner and run around the posts. It was converted.
Jack Maslen, Thompson and Toby Golds made good ground and a 25m burst by Anscombe was promising until a later pass went astray. This was repeated after a powerful run by Jack Arden-Brown.
The Blues were completely undone by three further tries by the Dorking backs, who exploited a ragged retreating defence to score on the wings and convert each time.
Chi had been too slow to deal with the obvious threat which extra speed posed. So at the end of eight minutes of added time, Chi were down 26-5 and in serious trouble. There was straight talking by head coach Rob Lawrence and it made a difference.
However, the pain continued with another Dorking lightning thrust. A charge through the lineout, the full-back joined the attack and the ball whipped out to the left winger who was too fast against vulnerable cover. Converted – 33-5.
Chi finally understood what had gone wrong and concentrated up front where they dominated for the rest of the game. Young Ben Deavall at loosehead gave his opponent a torrid time and replacement Sean Shepherd at hooker carried strongly.
Aaron Davies was in the thick of it at No8. A drive put flanker Ed Bowden over, converted by Taff Davies. Thompson and Robin Guest went close before another lineout and drive brought a try in the corner for Lindsay, converted by Davies to reduce it to 33-19.
The travelling Chi supporters got behind their team as they pressed on. But Dorking scored the crucial try with an interception, short kick ahead and their right winger up on it to score. Conversion missed.
More big effort by Chi pushed back the home scrum and winger Jak Evans picked up to score Chi’s fourth and bonus try, which was converted.
A rare Dorking attack was dangerous, Blues infringed and a second yellow card issued. Aaron Davies powered through on a 20m run but an unpleasant incident occurred which resulted in the assailant, No7 for Dorking, being sent off and Chi’s tighthead sin-binned for protecting the victim too robustly.
Chi turned the screw and O’Callaghan dived over the line from a maul and Taff Davies completed a fine kicking afternoon with conversion from wide out. They tried hard to get a winning try but Guest was somehow denied at the corner flag by a last tackle.
This week Blues are home to Sutton and Epsom, who have won three out of four games so far. Local support vital.
Chichester: Deavall, Arden-Brown, Dowding, O’Callaghan, Blount, Lindsay, Bowden, A Davies, Anscombe, T Davies, Guest, Thompson, Maslen, Evans, Golds, Shepherd, Lumbard, Farmer.
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