Chichester knocked Brighton off their perch with a performance which radiated their passion and resilience.
They put out a strong squad and a lot of hard work went into preparation. It was a thrilling and exhausting contest for players and supporters alike – and now renewed confidence has come from three straight wins against good opponents.
The four points put some daylight between Chichester and the relegation places.
Chichester made five changes to the side that beat Dartfordians. Richard Ives came into the pack at hooker, with Rhys Thompson at outside centre and Josh Terry, Phil Veltom and debutant Callum Cone on the bench.
Chi kicked off towards Oaklands Pavilion. The clearance from Brighton was volleyed back on the full by Chris Johnson and the opposition were back in their red zone with a lineout.
A poor clearance kick provided Chichester with a lineout and a powerful run from Joe Woods moved the attack over Brighton’s 22m line. The ball was recycled to the centre for Henry Anscombe to kick a drop goal.
Brighton’s fly-half wrong-footed the Chichester defence and drew the last man to provide an inside pass for a try which was converted.
Chichester pinned the visitors back in the opposition half. A Brighton box kick 5m from touch was charged down by Ed Bowden but the try was disallowed for offside.
Woods recovered the ball and Chi attacked again with Matt McLagan’s pass finding Rhys Thompson out wide. The outside centre put on the afterburners but was bundled into touch short of the try line.
From a lineout the Chichester pack moved the ball towards the try line with a series of pick and goes. Sam Drayson, Phil Veltom and Woods all made ground, but Ives carried the ball over for the try. Converted – 10-7.
Brighton’s right winger squeezed in at the corner to put the visitors back in front, 12-10.
Chichester found them-selves under pressure in their red zone. A late tackle on Anscombe led to a yellow card and Brighton were down to 14 players.
Despite being a man short, Brighton were looking dangerous in attack. A Chichester infringement in front of the posts allowed them to increase their lead to 15-10 before half-time.
Chichester started the second half like the first, stifling the Brighton running game. With five minutes gone McLagan spun the ball to Charlie Wallace, whose offload found Harry Seaman out wide.
A sidestep beat the first defender and a burst of speed and jink beat the second.
The last defender attempted to strip the ball and it dropped to the floor for Ben Polhill to kick on and gather for a try under the posts. The conversion made it 17-15.
A Brighton infringement provided Chichester with a lineout on halfway. The ball was worked across to the middle of the pitch to Anscombe whose long pass found Thompson. He carved through the Brighton defence on a 40m run to score in the corner – 22-15.
For the next ten minutes both defences stood firm. An infringement in the ruck by Chichester provided Brighton full-back O’Hagan the chance to kick a penalty and reduce the deficit to 22-18. A further penalty in front of the posts ten minutes later was pushed wide.
In the dying minutes the Brighton winger broke through but slipped on the 5m line when a winning try looked certain.
Paul Colley, Blues director of rugby, said: “The past few weeks have seen the squad pull together.
“Player availability has improved and performances on the pitch have been excellent. Havant, Dartfordians and in particular Brighton gave us different challenges, but the squad has stepped up to meet them.”
Ives was the supporters’ MoM.
Chichester: Drayson, Ives, Woods, Gibson, Bowden, Polhill, Wallace, Johnson, Baker, Anscombe, McLagan, Seaman, Thompson, Golds, Blewitt, Terry, Veltom, Cone.
* On Saturday the Blues entertain Thurrock at Oaklands Park (2.30pm).