Chichester made very hard work of a bonus-point 33-24 win at Gosport and Fareham and squandered several clear try chances.
Having nearly all the possession in the first half of the London one south clash, they should have been out of sight by the break but instead were pegged back to a 14-12 lead.
It was a scrappy game in which four yellow cards were issued. The Blues finally clinched it with three tries in the second period but their flimsy blindside defence had gifted three tries to Gosport.
Chichester finish the first half of the season in second place, ten points ahead of their nearest rivals. But tough 13 games lie ahead, seven away from home.
Chi were without several players, including Ben Polhill, so Richard Adams took over captaincy. Head coach Robert Lawrence started at hooker in the absence of Andy Gray.
A few seconds after kick off,there was a nasty incident and Chi prop Nick Shopland and a Gosport lock went to the sin bin.
Blues began their running game, the energetic Billy Toone launching his back-line. Adams twice fed Sam Renwick who made breaks but a tackle and then a knock-on prevented scores. Moses Kasujja at No8 penetrated and put Harry ‘Hippo’ Seaman on course to the line but he was stopped just short.
The Chi scrum had a definite edge and Niall Goldie and Jack Taggart were doing well in lineouts. A penalty and corner lineout was wasted when the ball went beyond Chi’s jumpers and was cleared.
Kasujja and Adams linked, the fly half made a fine break and passed inside for Renwick to gallop over for the first try. Adams converted.
Renwick’s 40m run should have brought a result but support was not there and he became isolated.
Gosport took quick advantage of a mess-up on the blindside right wing and broke away along the touchline. Chi’s cover was nowhere and a try was conceded behind the posts. The conversion made it 7-7.
Toone’s tap penalty should have been exploited near the posts but Gosport forced a turnover. Another penalty and corner lineout led to a clean catch by Taggart and the Chi pack drove over, Lawrence touching down. The conversion was by Adams.
Full-back Toby Golds raced into the centre and burst through but the pass was ruled forward.
Renwick hurt a hamstring and was replaced by Dan Madden, making his debut.
For the second time Gosport countered along the right wing and Golds had no chance in a three-on-one at the corner - 14-12 to Chi.
The first half finished with Adams kicking too long, a forward pass and the ball spilt in a drive. The home team’s confidence was growing.
After five minutes of the second period, a lineout catch by Warren Wright at the left corner started a drive, Kasujja timed his peel off blindside and escaped a final tackle to run around halfway to the posts. The conversion was missed.
Toone, Goldie and Taggart attacked through the centre but Chi passed and rucked in vain. A fracas broke out and a player on each side was shown a yellow card for team offence.
Gosport struck once more with a counter-attack on the right. Chi fell off their tackles and with an overlap, Gosport got their third try to make it 19-19.
Chi had to assert themselves and they stepped up a gear. A drive to the line was initially held but on the second heave, Phil Veltom crashed down and Adams converted.
Gosport showed true grit and Adams had to rescue a danger. He then embarked on a heartstopping dance, beating several players in front of his own posts and being forced out on his 22.
Kasujja had been a tower of strength and his thrust alowed Toone to fire out quick ball. The Gosport defence was drawn and the ball recycled for Golds to step both ways and score behind the posts. Adams’ conversion took it to 33-19.
Gosport had the last say with pick and drives across the pitch and a try at the left flag.
This Saturday, Chichester travel to Hove expecting a big challenge (2.15). All support welcome.
CHICHESTER: Shopland, Lawrence, Veltom, Taggart, Wright, Goldie, Grace, Kasujja, Toone, Adams, Bond, Seaman, Renwick, Luxton, Golds, L Davies, Nicholls, Madden.