Chichester’s 19-11 win over Gravesed in National three London south east was a much-improved team performance.
The Blues’ second win of the season came courtesy of a converted try and four penalties to a try – in time added on – and two penalties.
They played with determination and their tackling was excellent. They were able to nullify the Gs attacks, knocking them back all over the pitch, and the backs ran well but were only able to gain the one try.
Danny Gray had his kicking boots on and expertly kicked the penalties, which had been well earned.
Both sides had lost three games against leading opponents and this match was quite crucial to their hopes of better things to come.
Chi must maintain their tackling standard on this occasion and think about attacking tactics which may prise open the granite defences they will meet against the top group of clubs.
Chichester were without five players through injury or unavailability and there was sad news that Sam Renwick will miss the whole season.
Fijian Tatusi Vadei made his debut at loose-head prop, Danny Kirkpatrick was back from university to outside centre, Lester Pollard made his first start at scrum half,Toby Golds was recalled at full back and Aaron Davies came on to the bench.
The Blues kicked off and quickly won a scrum and ran left, Gs managing to survive five metres out. Chi pressed again at two scrums with Chris Johnson held up. Finally Pollard picked up and pressed down with just five minutes gone, the try converted by Gray.
Chi knocked on from the drop-out which gave Gs possession and they were nearly over at Vulture’s Corner but Dean Bonds and Golds tackled them out. The ball was spun to the centre and Chi infringed. Scott Curley kicked the penalty to make it 7-3.
A promising Chi backs move stretched Gs on their 22 but the referee ruled that there had been crossing by Chi’s centres. Bonds broke from his 22 to halfway, kicking ahead then flooring the defender with a firm tackle.
Gs’ large forwards began a battle with the Chi pack in the tight, but were driven back each time they tried to break out. Their backs handled well but they were being forced into lateral passes and their dangerous wingers were bottled up by good drift defence.
A Gs prop was nailed, ruck formed and Gs strayed offside. Gray’s first penalty sailed over from a challenging position. Play was even for a while with Chi’s back row harassing the Gs’ half-backs so they could attempt very little.
Chi captain Johnson was crashing over the gain line consistently, second row men Martin O’Callaghan and Phil Dickin were ripping ball in mauls and, in the scrums, the front row of Vadei, Mark Giddings and Tom Belcher would not be moved.
Flanker Peni Naiyanga had to go off for treatment and Davies ran on. Gray, Bonds and Dickin led an attack in force which eventually failed and at the other end Gs pressed from lineout and scrum, followed by four phases with the backs before being forced out by Chi’s vital covering as half time arrived with the score 10-3.
The game was evenly balanced and possession and territory were equal.
Chi knocked the Gs kick-off into touch. Gs took advantage and a high tackle gave them a penalty converted by Curley. Soon after Johnson caused havoc as he charged forward, Gs sinned at the ruck and Gray slotted three points for a 13-6 lead.
Golds launched a huge kick right into Vulture’s Corner, but the Chi lineout throw was crooked, an aspect of their game which must be practised as a priority as it happened twice more before the end of the game.
Chi had useful phases but Gs now tackled hard. The ball whistled across the backs, ruck formed and Gs put hands down over the top. An easy penalty – and Gray obliged.
A fine Chi attack with Kirkpatrick showing his skill brought another penalty award in front of the posts. It was kicked by Gray for 19-6 and four league points probably in the bag.
The last 15 minutes saw Gs striving to get a losing bonus point but Chi were refusing to allow them to get past. Both wingers were stopped and it looked as though it would never happen but surprisingly several minutes of injury time were added and right winger Temi Okenia penetrated at the corner, grounding a few metres in. The conversion for the bonus was missed and the final whistle blew.
This week brings another home game against Eton Manor, who were promoted last season a year after Chi beat them in a play-off but are so far struggling in this league. All support encouraged for a start that’s due at 2pm but could change now Wenlgnad are out of the World Cup.
CHI: Vadei, Giddings, Belcher, Dickin, O’Callaghan, B Polhill, Naiyaga, Johnson, Pollard, Gray, Bonds, T Polhill, Kirkpatrick, MacEnri, Golds, Norton, Davies, Durkin.
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