Chichester slipped to their second home defeat in their first meeting with the greens of Bracknell - losing the National three London south east encounter 10-5.
Both teams would have considered this a crunch match and were hoping the weather wouldn’t have too much effect on the outcome. Heavy rain for three days was a cause for concern but the pitch held up remarkably well and while obviously slippery, neither side could really blame the conditions for what was a pretty poor match.
The Blues played away from the clubhouse in the first half into a strong wind, which certainly gave the Greens the advantage in the kicking game.
Chi started strongly with big carries from Phil Veltom and Martin O’Callaghan taking the game deep into away territory. Bracknell scrambled well and used all their experience to spoil and slow down the ball and while some penalties resulted, in the main they got away with it.
The Blues dominated the first 20 minutes into the wind and rain and a score looked likely – particularly after a good lineout drive and an excellent angled run from Ben Robson – but Bracknell held out and cleared their lines.
For the next 20 minutes, the Blues were forced onto the back foot with the set-piece not functioning. They could gain no respite and had to rely on tenacious defence and several excellent turnovers.
Chris Johnson, Ben Polhill, Dean Bonds and Veltom epitomised this defensive effort but across the team, the D held strong. With the half closing, one critical mistake ensued and after wave after wave of attacks, the defence opened up and Bracknell slid past a poor last tackle for a try which was converted to make it 7-0 at half-time.
The Blues hadn’t seen the ball for 20 minutes and even with the late try conceded, coaches and players alike felt if they could just get a better platform the game was there.
Jack Bentall came on from the bench for his first outing of the season and was quickly into the action with his excellent contact-area work. The wind dropped to crucially negate the advantage as the Blues’ kicking game faltered.
Each time the Blues worked a good position they conceded back possession. Chi had their chances but just couldn’t turn their pressure into points with missed kicks and lineouts.
Bracknell sensed their chance, forcing a decent penalty opportunity which took them out to a 10-0 lead. The crowd tried to rally the Blues and a slowly they began to get behind the tiring away defence.
With some good phase play Phil Dickin showed good pace to get round the corner to crash over with ten minutes to go. The conversion was crucially missed, as was a follow-up penalty.
As the game entered its last phases the Blues were upping the tempo – Veltom hit a great line and the crowd erupted with what appeared to be the winning score right next to the posts. The ref signalled for a hold-up.
Chi couldn’t take advantage of the scrum and the greens scrambled the ball away. Chi maintained territory and created one more gilt-edged chance.
Richard Adams threw a superb miss pass to create a simple run-in with defence pulled completely out of position but the ball was dropped with the line just feet away.
Bracknell got the rub of the green with a few wobbly looking throws being given the benefit of the doubt as they held on to a crucial 10-5 win.
Blues head coach Rob Lawrence said: “This was a desperately disappointing loss with a real mixed performance. Our defence was right up there but other parts of our game just were not at the level we expect.”
This was tough to take, but Chichester know this is life in the National League. Bracknell have a long history at this level and every team is solid.
Small margins can make a big difference. The Blues will be working hard to find those margins.
The Blues go to Westcliff this Saturday. It’s a crunch game with the hosts one of four teams behind Chi in the table. All support welcome.
CHI: Dowding, Belcher, Veltom, Dickin, O’Callaghan, Naiyaga, Polhill, Johnson, Pollard, Adams, Bonds, Robson, Maslen, MacEnri, Golds. Reps: Richter, Bentall, Marsh.
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