Chichester beat Havant 30-17 in London one south in the first derby between these clubs since 2013, when Chichester did the double.
After a mixed performance in an even first half, they were superior in the second. They collected their third consecutive bonus-point win by scoring four tries, two conversions and two penalties to Havant’s two tries, two conversions and a penalty.
It was a hard, physical contest between two good teams willing to run the ball as much as possible, and it gave excellent entertainment to a large and vocal crowd.
Chi have maximum points so far and are second in the table on points difference.
On another bright afternoon, the Blues welcomed back former captain Scott Barlow after his several distinguished seasons with Worthing in the National leagues. Dane Gingell was a late replacement for Ben Deavall as front row replacement and Jamie Wilcock was at full back for the injured Tom Hutchin.
The visitors were well supported and their team kicked off with high hopes, two wins already achieved.
A Nick Blount tackle and a Ben Robson interception led to a Blues attack with Tom Belcher, Chris Johnson and Barlow driving from the lineout. The ball was transferred at impressive speed across the backs for winger Nat Jackson to beat desperate last ditch tackles and score at the right corner flag.
Both sides tested each other in midfield but a high tackle on Havant’s Fijian fly-half gave Richard Adams ten minutes in the sin-bin.
Havant advanced, Chi lost a lineout and confident passing put left winger Wilkes over at the corner. Knight kicked a splendid conversion – 5-7 to Havant.
After some scrappy play, Anscombe cleared to touch with a towering kick. Chi charged to the Havant 22 and a score looked on the cards but play was brought back for a penalty and Anscombe succeeded from just over halfway.
The next Blues thrust was stopped illegally at a ruck and Anscombe was again on target – 11-7. Havant replied with a 40m run by full-back Carr and the ball was spread to the right wing. A fine cross-kick deceived the Chi defence and flanker Cuffe caught it at the gallop and touched down near the posts. Knight converted, 11-14.
Carr had been injured and was helped off the pitch. The Chi forwards rolled forward again and won good ground but Blount also had to leave the pitch after a knock to the head. Aaron Davies replaced him.
A Chi penalty was sent to the corner and Havant were under the cosh. Cuffe infringed to stop a driving maul and was sent to the bin.
Blues would not be denied and although Johnson was just held up, they moved to the left for Barlow to crash over. It was converted by Anscombe for an 18-14 lead.
Just before the break Chi were penalised in front of their posts and Knight made no mistake – that made it 18-17.
Chi restarted with determination. A lovely backs move gave outside centre Sam Renwick space. He accelerated and with a classic sidestep burst through from outside the Havant 22 and dashed to the line.
A tap tackle brought him down but his momentum got him across despite hurting his knee in the process. Anscombe converted for a 25-17 lead, but Renwick had to go off.
The scrums were fairly even, and Chi had the edge in the lineout with Davies, Barlow and Charlie Wallace doing the business.
Chi gradually dominated possession. Johnson stormed 30m breaking tackles and a penalty was delivered to Vulture’s Corner.
A drive was infringed by Cuffe who received a second yellow and a red.
From another lineout, Barlow was prominent in the drive maul, and a ball out from Adams saw Davies smash down to make it 30-17 with Chi looking safe.
But Havant tried again with their scrum-half Hewett working hard to find a gap. He kicked ahead and Robson had to make a brave fall to avert the danger.
Blues defended stoutly on the right wing for Adams to clear. The tireless Johnson stormed again and the backs took it up with Jack Bentall tackled just short of the line.
Jackson ran well out of defence and Robson and Anscombe raced into the 22 but were unlucky to knock on in the tackle. Two penalties to the right corner promised a fifth try but Havant held out and were still competing at the final whistle.
This week Chi face their biggest test so far away to league leaders CS Rugby at Chiswick. All support welcome.
Chichester: Belcher, Arden-Brown, Veltom, Barlow, Blount, O’Callaghan, Wallace, Johnson, Anscombe, Adams, Robson, Bentall, Renwick, Jackson, Wilcock, Gingell, Davies, Hillyer.