Leaders beaten on day to cherish for Chichester
Chichester rose to the big occasion and this superb performance brought them a bonus-point 22-9 victory over the runaway London one south leaders Medway.
As the sun dipped in the west after a glorious afternoon, the Chi players and supporters celebrated.
Medway had won all of their ten games this season and were eight points clear at the top. But they met a revitalised Blues squad which had returned to almost full strength and were determined to stop a recent slide.
They outmuscled and outplayed the Kent visitors thanks to their dominant forwards, hard running backs and the excellence of their defence when needed in the second half.
Medway were disappointed to finally lose so emphatically but sporting in their praise of the Chi players, especially the pack which they rated the best they had met. Chi scored four tries and one conversion to just three penalties.
Blues welcomed back Phil Veltom, Scott Barlow, Chris Johnson, Charlie Wallace, Aaron Davies and Sam Renwick. Jamie Wilcock was at full-back.
They made an ideal start after three minutes in bright sunshine. Veltom and Johnson carried powerfully and sent the backs away. Wilcock offloaded to scrum-half Harry Seaman who skated across and touched down halfway in from the left corner. Conversion missed - 5-0.
Nick Blount was in catching control at lineouts and the backs stretched their legs and warmed their hands. Medway tried to break free but were stopped abruptly by Wallace, Barlow and Johnson tackles.
Two forward passes spoilt the end of flowing Chi attacks before Veltom and Johnson charged from a lineout to set up a chance on the right wing which just failed.
Medway made a first advance to the Chi 22 but were driven back and the backs cut loose. At outside centre Renwick made a silky break and shook off two desperate tackles to sprint over and score. Conversion missed, 10-0 on 23 minutes.
The scrum seemed to have the edge but the front row were having a hard time satisfying the ref. The big men in second and back rows were providing good strength which grew.
Chi went further ahead when Blount collected another Medway throw and Wallace ran it out to launch the backs. Slick passing and Jack Bentall took a clever offload to swerve and dive between the uprights. Wilcock converted - 17-0. Medway got into the Chi 22 but missed a penalty.
Chi replied and fly-half Adrian Lynch made a half-break before a penalty was conceded at the ruck. The visitors were slowly getting up to normal speed and worked phases to be given a penalty, this time landed by Harvey. A high tackle stopped a Chi move but no yellow card was issued.
A rare crooked lineout throw and a forward pass blunted chances and a Johnson intercept and gallop down the left wing was foiled by a turnover.
Chi were controlling the game but were incurring a high penalty count. Half-time: 17-3.
Sure enough, Medway emerged fired up. They attacked towards the right wing and a pass was intercepted by Renwick. He was yellow-carded for a deliberate knock-on and Harvey kicked the penalty - 17-6.
The referee might want to review a decision when the Chi scrum shoved their opponents backwards and they partially collapsed. As Chi drove over they were amazed to be penalised for alleged wheeling.
Medway were looking dangerous and one of two penalties was converted by Harvey for 17-9. Chi responded. Great inter-passing between Johnson and Lynch saw the big No8 hurtling to the try line where he was just brought down inches short.
The ball was rucked and sent out to Cameron Hopkins, who scored at the left flag. Conversion missed.
Medway pressed with Chi having to resist for the last 20 minutes. Tom Belcher tackled hard to prevent a break from a lineout and Seaman suffered an ankle injury from a kick. Blount continued to win lineout ball to restrict Medway chances.
Pressure was applied but Chi tackles went in first up and hard. Bentall was binned for an infringement and Chi were down to 14 again. With five minutes to go they were only 13 when Veltom joined his captain to watch the finale.
Medway were now determined to score a try but Chi were not going to allow it. Big hits went in to frustrate a wave of attacks and Medway knocked on with the line beckoning.
Chi kept the ball in midfield until a turnover gave the men from Rochester a last chance of consolation but replacement Ben Heber tackled them into touch at Vultures’ Corner. Heber kicked a penalty out and Chi had deserved an unforgettable victory.
This week Blues are at home to Maidstone, all support welcome. Note the 2pm start.
Chichester: Woods, Belcher, Veltom, Barlow, Blount, Davies, Wallace, Johnson, Seaman, Lynch, Jenkinson, Bentall, Renwick, Hopkins, Wilcock, Gingell, O’Callaghan, Heber.