In the first half of their home clash with Tonbridge Juddians, Chi made the National three London south east leaders seem vulnerable and rather ordinary. But after a very stern lecture by their coaches, TJs showed their professional strength and skill to win comfortably.
A 12-0 lead for Chi was a false dawn on a sunny day against a Kent team who will almost certainly win automatic promotion and should hold their own in National two.
The margin was six tries, four conversions and three penalties to a try and four penalties. Welshman Taff Davies kicked four from five from the tee for Chi, and Liam Prescott six from nine for TJs.
It was spring again in front of a large crowd boosted by the annual farmers’ lunch.
Phil Dickin returned at lock and Ross Miller to the right wing. Tom Belcher was on the bench with young Elliott Quinton making his debut.
The visitors had their quartet of former East Grinstead players, including Prescott, who has always been a thorn in Chi flesh.
Blues kicked off with the sun behind them and scrum-half Jak Evans made an early break from a Jack Bentall lineout catch and drive. Chris Johnson carried it on and TJ went offside in the centre. The first penalty was easily slotted.
Another Evans thrust from an Aaron Davies feed put Henry Anscombe and Harry Seaman away but he was tackled into touch. Prescott found a good touch as TJs went forward but they were soon penalised at a breakdown.
Chi went to Vultures’ Corner and a lineout and drive was almost over the try line but play was brought back for an easy penalty to make it 6-0.
Chi stayed dominant in the set pieces and were winning turnovers when TJs tried to reply. Another penalty for obstruction was successful from nearly 40 metres.
Hooker Jack Arden-Brown was throwing accurately and the next jumper to win against the TJ giraffes was Nick Blount.
Bentall was injured and had to be replaced by Quinton, Johnson taking over the captaincy.
TJs collapsed a scrum under pressure and Taff Davies kicked his fourth penalty from good distance and close to the touchline – it was 12-0 to Chi and supporters were rubbing their eyes.
TJs were shaken but now stirred. A penalty was missed but they mauled across field from a lineout and although the right winger was forced out, a penalty had been signalled and was kicked and TJs were on the scoreboard.
After the hard-working Johnson was penalised on exit from a maul, TJs drove to the left corner, Chi tackled hard to stop pick and goes but winger Woodhouse was sin-binned.
Finally from the corner lineout the phases were worked and the ball was sent across for centre McMahon to score the first try. Just before the break Prescott notched his second penalty. Chi went for their rest 12-11 up and deserving to be.
TJs restarted after a rollicking and the hour of reckoning had come for Chi,who were a man down for a few more minutes.
Chi were penalised at a maul and the kick from near the touchline seemed to have passed inches wide but the touch judges raised their flags. TJs were ahead.
Their tactics were clear: win the battle up front, drive regularly with front foot ball and spin quickly to the wings as close to the try line as possible.
Big tackles had to be made by Blount, Dickin, Deavall and Quinton as TJs turned the screw. Belcher ran on and Bentall returned.
A tidal wave of TJs attacks started but it was a bad kick to the wing by Chi which was the trigger for 20 minutes of pressure. It was caught by winger Copsey who had a clear run in from 40m with the Chi defence at sea. It was converted.
Despite many brave tackles the Chi defence became overstretched and TJs’ third then fourth bonus-point triesy were scored with one conversion landed and the other missed – 33-12.
A TJs replacement prop was sin-binned for a high tackle on Arden-Brown and Chi at last managed to get to the other end and Bentall started a lineout drive which was touched down by Anscombe. The conversion was missed from the touchline. This consolation was short lived as a fifth try was scored following fine inter-passing by TJs.
In the last few minutes the Chi backs ran hard and Sam Renwick was twice stopped after half breaks. The last nail in the coffin was a five-metre scrum for TJs and as their pack trundled to the line, the referee awarded a penalty try which was converted by outside centre Nicholl.
Chi’s second XV beat TJs seconds 10-7.
A welcome rest comes this week before a tough game at in-form Westcliff on Saturday week.
March 11, April 1 and April 22 bring crucial matches against Amersham, Guildford and Westcombe Park. Don’t miss them!
Chichester: Deavall, Arden-Brown, Vadei, Blount, Dickin, A Davies, Bentall (capt), Johnson, Evans, Anscombe, Seaman, T Davies, Renwick, Miller, Maslen. Reps: Belcher, Quinton, Woodhouse.
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