Chichester overcame Dover for the first time in a hard and pulsating game which was great entertainment for the appreciative crowd, winning 42-21 to stay second in London one south.
The Blues’ team spirit was obvious again and in the end they won handsomely by seven tries, two conversions and a penalty to three converted tries.
It was nip and tuck until the interval but then Chichester pulled away to complete their ninth consecutive win.
They are joint second and the chance of a play-off for promotion probably lies between them and London Irish. Neither can afford to lose any of their remaining games.
Chichester were without Scott Barlow but fielded a strong squad. The pitch was heavy and the players had to cope with clinging mud in places.
The home team swarmed into attack from kick-off. They hammered the Dover defence and were rewarded with two copybook tries by hooker Rob Lawrence after lineout catches by Nick Blount followed by driving mauls.
One wide-out conversion was put away by Richard Adams, the other hit a post and rebounded.
So, 12-0 after 12 minutes and Moses Kasujja, Chris Johnson, Eddie Armah and Jack Smallman had all gone close.
Dover showed their pedigree by keeping tight and they arrived at the Chichester 22 to launch their rolling maul. Two lineouts and another roll led to the unfortunate Phil Veltom being dismissed for ten minutes for pulling the maul down. It was a case of mistaken identity.
Dover took advantage from a scrum, drawing in the central defence for powerhouse Mackintosh to touch down between the posts. Fly-half Beaumont converted.
Chichester resumed the offensive but a Dover clearance kick was spilt bacwards on the slippery surface. The ball was seized and kicked long, Beaumont winning the race to gather and score, converting his own try.
This was a shock to the Blues, but they lifted again and Billy Toone kicked cleverly to the right corner. A defender fumbled and was penalised for holding on. The tap penalty was quickly taken and Ross Fairbairn dived across the line to make it 17-14.
There were fascinating battles going on, but all well disciplined. In lineouts it was Blount and Johnson against Tonks and Blowers. The back rows were well matched and knew each other well. They fought tooth and nail for possession, while up front props Nick Shopland and Veltom used all their strength.
Lock Jon Lindsay carried effectively and crunching tackles all over the pitch made spectators wince – but it was totally absorbing.
Smallman took a deep pass on the Dover 22 and ran a promising line but was tackled out with five metres to go. The backs moved the ball right to give Paul Todd a sniff but he was also forced out by stout defence.
Dover had the final play of the half and a last-ditch tackle saved a likely try by their fast backs.
Adams kicked a penalty for offside at the lineout. A concerted attack was developed by Lawrence who slipped a pass to Kasujja pounding along the touchline.
He was a metre out and about to score at the corner when he was smashed into the flag by a bodycheck which was more Dallas than Dover. He was laid out and had lengthy treatment.
The referee awarded the penalty try for an illegal tackle and Adams converted. The Dover man was sent to the cooler and Kasujja was replaced by Alex Chappell.
Chichester engaged top gear and flanker Johnson regularly broke tackles and linked with the backs. Dover were dangerous on the counter but finally cracked. Tom Polhill and brother Ben joined with Johnson to put Lawrence on the road to his hat-trick, but not before he had sold his big dummy.
A few minutes later, Ben Polhill broke away with Fairbairn and passed out to Armah. The speedster ran and kicked towards the left corner. Tom Polhill was first to arrive and carry over for the touchdown.
Dover cannot be written off and back they came, and Beaumont carved a lovely break before giving a perfect pass to Mackintosh. He went from halfway to under the posts and no-one had a chance of stopping him. Beaumont added the extras. Dover pressed for the last 15 minutes and Chichester’s scrum went backwards. Adams was sinbinned for an offside interception. Toby Golds cleared with a big kick to the opposite touch as the Kent side looked for consolation.
Chichester’s tackling was just good enough to hold the fort as the players slogged it out in midfield. Finally, Chichester came away with their driving maul. Blount made ground and offloaded to Smallman, who switched inside for Fairbairn to score under the posts. Adams wasted two points by drop-kicking the conversion to hit the left upright.
Congratulations to the mud-spattered players and referee Graham Gibson for a great show. Outstanding Blues men were Johnson, Toone and Lawrence, whose 15th try of the season made him a record-breaking hooker at the club.
Director of rugby Paul Colley said: “It was a very good all-round performance against tough, tenacious opponents. Our tries were well executed. Chris Johnson was man of the match.”
CHICHESTER: Shopland, Lawrence, Veltom, Lindsay, Blount, Johnson, B Polhill, Kasujja, Toone, Smallman, Armah, T Polhill, Fairbairn, Todd, Adams, Pszczonka, Chappell, Golds.
This Saturday, Chichester play a derby at Portsmouth. All support welcome.