Richmond's Old Deer Park not happy hunting ground for Blues

Chichester travelled up to Old Deer Park in Richmond on a dank day to play top of the league London Welsh in London one south – and ended well beaten 48-12.

Thursday, 16th December 2021, 3:30 pm
Matt McLagan goes over for a Chichester try at Richmond / Picture: Alison Tanner

Blues more than held their own in the scrums and Zac Conley and Scott Barlow won their lineout ball throughout.

Ben Polhill made good ground from the back of scrums and was unlucky his set-ups brought no reward.

London Welsh played like a leading team in a higher league and, with their all-round strength and playing resources, will be promoted. It will be a fascinating rematch in April.

A small contingent of the Chichester faithful, led by club president Gareth Webb who played for the exiles in the 1980s, made the journey hoping the Blues would replicate Guildford’s efforts seven days earlier, when they inflicted London Welsh’s fourth defeat in 74 matches.

London Welsh had promised a reaction and their supporters weren’t to be disappointed.

Blues made four changes to the side that defeated Battersea Ironsides the previous weekend. Richard Ives, Tom Wheeler and Harry Norton came into the pack and Ben Robson was on the bench.

Chichester made a bright start but couldn’t compete with the speed of their backs and found themselves a converted try down after seven minutes.

A Blues knock on after 12 minutes, provided the much anticipated first scrum of the afternoon.

At the put-in Chichester had the Exiles in reverse but the ball was quickly in the hands of the backs for a try in the corner. Conversion missed, 12-0. London Welsh’s thrd try came on 20 minutes.

Blues regrouped and Tom Blewitt’s long defensive kick was recovered by Conley inside the Exiles 22m line.

The forwards advanced the ball and an opposition infringement provided a lineout eight metres from the line.

The ball was taken down by Conley and the forwards moved the ball towards the try line. When a Blues’ try looked inevitable London Welsh turned the ball over and cleared their lines.

Then it was Scott Barlow’s turn to claim the ball and allow the forwards to make progress.

The ball was passed across the backs and Blewitt chipped over the Exiles defence and won the foot race to gather the ball, with his forwards in support. After another set of pick and goes Joe Woods crossed the whitewash and dotted down, converted by Blewitt. to make it 19-7. But London Welsh ran in two further tries and at the interval it was 29-7.

The Exiles increased their lead with a converted try four minutes after the break. However, Blues didn’t drop their heads and for 15 minutes they dug deep with Polhill and Seaman both making progress towards the opposition try line.

But the well drilled Welsh defence absorbed the pressure and stopped each attack.

The onslaught continued and the Blues’ forwards turned over the ball for Seaman to supply Gareth Davies for a pass to Eddie Jenkinson. With the Exiles’ defence stretched, Matt McLagan on a looping run received the ball and crossed the line to score the try. Conversion missed, 36-12.

Soon London Welsh ran the ball back down the pitch to score. A conversion meant it was 43-12.

Blues gifted London Welsh a further try on 64 minutes.

The final 15 minutes saw the Exiles in game management mode with Chichester, despite the efforts of Polhill, unable to break through the well organised red hosts’ wall.

Gareth Davies was named Blues MoM.

On Saturday Blues welcome Horsham to Oaklands Park (2pm).