Relief for Chichester! Last-gasp drama can't stop Blues beating Dartford

Matt McLagan, supported by Ben Polhill, being tackled / Picture: Chris Hatton
Matt McLagan, supported by Ben Polhill, being tackled / Picture: Chris Hatton

Chichester gained a narrow bonus-point 27-26 home win after a hard struggle against determined opponents Dartfordians.

The visitors almost snatched victory but their drop goal attempt in added time sailed just wide of the right post.

Zac Conoly in the air with Sam Drayson about to catch the ball behind / Picture by Chris Hatton

Zac Conoly in the air with Sam Drayson about to catch the ball behind / Picture by Chris Hatton

Chi trailed by six points soon after the interval but they hit back and despite errors and a bad penalty count against them, they held on to move up to seventh place in the league.

Blues made seven changes – Ben Deavall, Martin O’Callaghan and Zac Conoly came into the forwards, Rhys Thompson and Tom Blewitt returned in the backs, with Nick Blount and Alex Lock on the bench.

Chichester immediately had the visitors under pressure. An attempted kick into touch stopped short and Ben Robson kicked the ball through the Darts’ defence and picked up to score with 66 seconds gone. Tom Blewitt converted from out wide.

Chichester’s backs, directed by Gareth Davies, ran at every opportunity and excited the crowd. Dartfordians declined the opportunity to kick three relatively simple penalties in lieu of kicks to the corner and lineouts.

Chi on the attack against Dartfordians / Picture by Chris Hatton

Chi on the attack against Dartfordians / Picture by Chris Hatton

Blues’ defence was solid for 25 minutes until the Darts’ prop peeled off of the maul, five metres out, and drove across the line to score. The conversion made it 7-7.

Chris Johnson turned over the ball, Harry Seaman fed Davies whose pass found Rhys Thompson on a diagonal run through the opposition defence for an offload to Sam Trodd and Chichester’s second try.

Trodd went on a mazy run through the visitors’ defence putting a grubber kick through for Robson to chase and nearly dot down. Within seconds the ball was back in the Chichester 22 and a wicked bounce wrongfooted two defenders for a simple Darts’ try.

The penalty count started to rise and the referee produced a yellow card and Chichester were reduced to 14 men. Darts kicked the penalty to end the half 15-12 up.

Five minutes into the second half Darts increased their score from another penalty in front of the posts.

Davies’s looping pass found Thompson who burst through, making nearly 30m. After a series of pick and goes Darts were penalised and Blewitt kicked the penalty.

As Chichester returned to a full compliment the visitors were penalised with a yellow card. Blues kicked for the corner and after several phases from the forwards Joe Woods carried the ball over the line for a 20-18 lead.

Darts converted a penalty kick 30m out,after a Blues’ infringement at the breakdown.

Chris Johnson recovered the ball on the Blues’ 22m line and set off up the touchline before being stopped by the visitors’ full back just 5m from the try line.

Ben Polhill and Martin O’Callaghan teed up Blewitt for a lofted cross-field kick that found Rhys Thompson in the in-goal area for Chichester’s fourth try and a bonus point, converted by Blewitt.

Dartfordians threw the kitchen sink at Blues. The referee produced a second yellow on 67 minutes, reducing Chichester to 14, and the visitors dotted down from a driving maul. Conversion missed, 27-26 with 12 minutes left.

Blues thought they had scored a try when Trodd touched down but the referee deemed it to have been grounded by a Darts’ player. The visitors had two lineouts on the Blues’ 5m line but couldn’t get their rolling maul to work after fine defence from the Chi pack. Dartfordians had a chance for glory with the final play but the drop kick drifted a few inches wide of the post.

Vice-President’s MoM was Rhys Thompson.

Chichester: Deavall, Drayson, Woods, O’Callaghan, Conoly, Spriggs, Polhill, Johnson, Seaman, Davies, McLagan, Thompson, Blewitt, Robson, Trodd, Blount, Rowland, Lock.

This week (23 Nov) Chichester travel to Thurrock.