Park performance is pick-me-up for Chichester
A 21-15 win at Westcombe Park made it a satisfying day for Chichester, who used the right tactics and made few mistakes for a victory that moved them back up to sixth in National three London south east.
After an even first half, they gained full control and pulled away to lead 21-8 until added time, when Westcombe grabbed a consolation try and conversion.
This was revenge for the Blues’ first home defeat last October and completed their tenth victory, six of which have come in away games.
They scored two tries, one conversion and three penalties to two tries, one conversion and a penalty. They have 52 league points and are in sixth place.
It was the first time they had played at ’Combe and liked the look of an excellent pitch –but were short of forwards through injury or unavailability.
Legendary Moses Kasujja and Nick Shopland had been persuaded on to the bench. Sadly Kasujja had just two minutes on the pitch in the second period before limping off to generous applause and Shopland had just one minute thanks to brief attention to his son Joe.
It was cold but sunny when Chi kicked off with the sun in the eyes of the hosts. Left winger Tom Jackson had an early gallop but was tackled and penalised for holding on.
A Combe attack was intercepted and Richard Adams ran hard, his kick to the try line causing Combe to scramble and clear to touch. Penalties were exchanged, then hooker Joe Shopland broke through and was only caught in the nick of time.
The ball was lost from a mix-up receiving a high kick, Combe attacked and after a half-break by dangerous outside-centre Hough, a ruck penalty was conceded but was missed.
Chris Johnson and Jack Bentall powered forward but Combe countered and fly-half Simpson kicked a fairly easy penalty. Bentall launched a long driving maul by the Chi pack and the ball was spun out for a failed attempt at the left corner.
Chi scrummed their ball and Ed Durkin was alert at the half wheel to pick up and sprint 25 metres to the try line. He was tackled but pirouetted to touch down. Fly-half Alex Marsh converted confidently, five metres in from touch, to make it 7-3.
Another drive saw the ball kicked to the corner but the maul was held up and robbed on the line. Combe’s lineout jumper was claiming all their throws but was airborne too long and Chi were organised when he landed.
Combe attacked and Jackson twice and Ben Polhill, celebrating his 36th birthday, saved the day with solid tackles. Combe pressed but were held near the posts.
Marsh sent a big searching kick along the right touch and it cleared the full-back but bounced in for him to recover and run back. Chi failed to stop him quickly and he broke forward to set up a counter at the halfway line.
Winger Nattrass was tackled by two men, one having been drawn in, and the offload gave the looping Hough a straight 45m run at pace to score at the left flag. The conversion hit the outside of an upright.
Chi had been caught out but they went back to win a penalty for offside and Marsh slotted a very good three points to give his side a 10-8 lead at the break and distinct signs that they could get the upper hand in the tight.
They restarted in determined mood. A Rhys Gillings lineout catch put the backs away with full-back Adams joining. A penalty was awarded – no problem for Marsh.
Jackson was brought to ground in a swift attack while Aaron Lowe had to floor a man to resist a Combe thrust. A third penalty was converted by Marsh for a 16-8 lead.
Bentall and mobile prop Tom Belcher were causing Combe problems but Kieran Mudd’s attempted inside break was foiled in the next backs move. Combe struggled to get into Chi’s half to release their dangermen and their tight-head was sin-binned. He was very lucky to escape a red card for his loud and foul-mouthed tantrum at the referee as he trotted off.
Johnson and Belcher were prominent as the Blues continued the advance but Combe were certainly not beaten and reached the Chi 22, where they mauled and scrummed, but Chichester defended stoutly despite a yellow card for Polhill.
Bentall paved the way for a driving maul but the referee pulled them back after nearly 30m to take a testing penalty which was missed.
The alert scrum-half Durkin switched play to the blindside for Shopland and Belcher to combine, the offload finding the charging Gillings who plunged over in the right corner. A difficult conversion was short, so the lead was 21-8.
Combe responded, wanting the losing bonus point. They pressed hard with scrums and mauls, Chi’s back row winning the defensive battle until the 13th minute of added time when a lob over the top from ten metres was finished off by full-back Leeper with the last play, Gordon converting.
A rest weekend this week is followed on Saturday week by a huge game against Sussex rivals East Grinstead on January 31 (2pm). It is a long time since Chi beat them and they would welcome a big crowd to see if the can get revenge for their 27-5 away loss.
CHICHESTER: Dowding, J Shopland, Belcher, Neil, Gillings, Polhill, Johnson, Bentall, Durkin, Marsh, Jackson, Mudd, Lowe, Tanner, Adams. Reps: N Shopland, Kasujja, Driscoll.