Depleted Blues battle in defeat at Brighton

Nick Blount soars in the lineout at Brighton / Picture by Michael Clayden
Nick Blount soars in the lineout at Brighton / Picture by Michael Clayden

Although Chichester lost 38-26 away to a good Brighton team in London one south, they did rather better than expected in view of their very serious selection problems.

They earned a bonus point for their four tries and were in sight of a possible draw before the home team scored in the last minutes.

Harry Seaman went close to a new club record for a scrum-half by scoring a hat-trick of tries in the first half. However, Brighton were faster in the backs and with excellent support play were able to to create several overlaps on the wings.

They were very keen to reclaim Sussex bragging rights after two defeats by Chi four seasons ago and deserved to win.The margin was six tries and four conversions to four Chi tries and three conversions, one of which was automatic from a penalty try.

Chi have a very worrying player crisis. At Brighton they had seven missing through injury and five more were unavailable. In Jack Bentall’s absence, the ageless Ben Polhill was recalled to captain the side, his first appearance in his 21st season for the club.

Lock Callum Gibson, No8 Declan Johnson and inside centre Eddie Jenkinson made debuts. Veteran Tim Cook came in at outside centre and Toby Golds slid on to the bench. Adrian Lynch moved to fly half and Tom Hutchin to full-back.

Chi refused to accept defeat and pushed their opponents back over the try line, Brighton collapsed it and the penalty try was conceded for seven points - 33-26.

It was chilly and the pitch was soft after rain. Both teams observed a minute of silence for Remembrance Day.

Chi made a rare bad start, conceding a try after two minutes. They lost the ball in midfield, Brighton full-back Morris gathered and scorched 50 metres, outflanking everyone and straightening to score a fine try under the posts. It was converted by fly-half Tegelaars.

Soon after they sent the ball out from a lineout and a high kick to the right wing led to the winger Winsloe winning a race to touch down at the corner. Converted - 12-0.

Touch kicks for lineouts followed mostly from penalties given by a demanding referee. Chi had only one jumper but it was the competent Nick Blount, who caught all the Chi throws. Brighton took their equal share without competition.

Chi got going and Seaman delivered two long-range penalties, the second into the right corner. The lineout drive was stopped illegally and Seaman took a quick tap penalty and dived over the line. Converted by Hutchin.

Another penalty to touch followed, the forwards drove with Polhill leading. Close passing found Seaman who threw a big dummy and then snaked past a tackle to score ten metres left of the upright. Conversion missed - 12-12.

As Brighton came back and drove steadily up the left touchline, Chi were penalised three times for infringements on the ground.

Brighton seized the chance and slick passes by the backs sent Tegelaars on an arcing run to touch down under the posts and convert his own try - 19-12.

Just before the break, a Blount leap put the Chi backs on the front foot and they gained a penalty. Seaman kicked into the left corner for a strong drive and he pounced again to score his third try. For someone who is powerfully built his wriggling skill is special. It was converted by Hutchin.

It was 19-19 at the interval but Brighton had a distinct edge in the scrums.

The next score was important and the hosts got it. Fast handling by their backs gave an overlap try to the left winger despite the last pass looking forward. He rounded the posts and a simple conversion followed - 26-19.

The Chi forwards were working hard and Tom Belcher was in the thick of things. They drove for good position and Cook almost burst through but was well tackled. Grayson broke a tackle but was hauled down with five metres to go. Finally the pick and go was held up just short of the try line.

A penalty was awarded to the defenders and Seaman was sent to the bin. This was Chi’s last big chance.

Brighton hit back and a flanker went over at the right corner flag and round to the posts. Converted - 33-19.

Chi refused to accept defeat and pushed their opponents back over the try line, Brighton collapsed it and the penalty try was conceded for seven points - 33-26.

Chi tried one more attack but Brighton countered and with excellent passing they scored their final try out wide again. Chi were disappointed but they had done their best.

A rest comes this week and the Blues hope to have more players to choose from against unbeaten leaders Medway on November 25 at Oaklands Park (2.30pm). It should be a cracker.

Chichester: Belcher, Gingell, Woods, Gibson, Blount, O’Callaghan, Polhill, D Johnson, Seaman, Lynch, Hillyer, Jenkinson, Cook, Heber, Hutchin, Drayson, Charlish, Golds.

ROGER GOULD