Chichester lost out by just seven points in a thriller with London Cornish but took a losing bonus point from a 47-40 defeat.
Chichester made six changes to the side that beat KCS Old Boys last time out. Richard Ives came into the pack, Callum Cone and Rhys Thompson returned in the backs with John Lindsay and debutants Elliot Haydon and Sam Trodd on the bench.
The match was played in dry, windy conditions on a lush pitch after the midweek rain. Having shipped early points in the first three games of the season it was Chichester’s turn to get on the scoreboard after only four minutes. Early pressure had Cornish defending in their red zone. Josh Cameron was stopped five metres out and Harry Seaman, at acting scrum half, darted through the defence to touchdown next to the posts. Converted. 0-7.
Buoyed by their early success Blues continued to press and for 15 minutes kept Cornish contained, under pressure and conceding penalties.
Chichester’s strategy of kicking to the corner didn’t work as the home team’s well drilled pack repelled each driving maul.
With 20 minutes on the clock a Chichester clearance kick into the wind was run back and a simple looping pass created an overlap for a Cornish try out wide. Conversion missed 5-7.
Shortly after, the home side increased their lead from a scrum on the Blues’ 22 metre line. Converted. 12-7. Things then went from bad to worse as an attempt by Blues to run the ball out of their own 22 was intercepted for a touchdown. Conversion missed. 17-7. From the restart Chichester responded with a powerful run from Richard Ives who offloaded to Liam Rowland.
The winger was stopped illegally on the line and the referee produced a yellow card. Blues once again went for the kick to the corner but the ball was lost at the lineout and two passes later was touched down by Cornish under the Chichester posts. Converted. Half time and 24-7.
After three minutes a clearance kick was collected by debutant Elliot Haydon who made ground and sent through a grubber kick for the supporting Rhys Thompson to touch down. Conversion missed. 24-12.
From the restart Thompson was straight back in the action gathering the ball and feeding Sam Renwick for a try under the posts. Converted. 24-19.
With 50 minutes gone it was Chichester’s turn to receive a yellow card and allow Cornish to increase the score with a penalty kick. 27-19. With a man advantage it only took the Cornishmen two minutes to score a converted try and move further ahead. 34-19. With their full complement restored Chichester upped the tempo pushing Cornish back towards their 22 metre line with powerful running from Haydon, Ben Deavall and Charlie Wallace.
The pressure paid off with Thompson breaking through the opposition defence and, having been tackled, managing to ground the ball on the line for Blues’ fourth try and a bonus point. 34-26. The Cornish response came three minutes later with a converted try. 41-26 and 15 minutes left.
The match seemed done and dusted with five minutes left, Cornish having kicked two penalties to increase the score to 47-26. However, Chichester had failed to read the script and Shaun Baker passed to Blewitt on halfway. The young speedster cut through the opposition defence with a jinking run to dot down under the posts. Converted. 41-33 and time nearly up. From the restart Baker slipped a sublime inside pass to Haydon who set off on a 40 metre run before passing unselfishly to Wallace five metres out for try number six next to the post. Converted. 47-40. Full time and two bonus points.
Supporters' man of the match was Elliot Haydon.
Chichester squad: Drayson, W. Norton, Ives, Blount, Deavall, Cameron, Wallace (Capt.), Spriggs, Cone, Baker, Blewitt, Thompson, Renwick, Rowland, Seaman, Lindsay, Trodd and Haydon.
This Saturday (Oct 5) Chi welcome former head coach Rob Lawrence and his Westcombe Park team to Oaklands Park (3pm).