Rugby gallery: Chichester beat the mud for handsome victory
Chichester skated and slithered to a deserved bonus-point 34-8 win against their old Kent rivals Gravesend.
On a day when even the ducks moaned about the rain, both teams did their best to cope with the conditions for the London one south clash.
The not-so-brave spectators took shelter on the balcony of Noah’s Ark, also known as Oaklands Pavilion. There was only one practical tactic on the pitch which meant mauls, scrums, drives and occasional kicking to touch for the lineout lads to keep warm.
Gravesend are struggling to survive in this demanding league and included several Colts players who never gave up, although Chi were clearly better after a slow start. Blues scored five tries, a penalty try and a conversion to a penalty and consolation try by the visitors in the very last play.
Captain Charlie Wallace, Tom Belcher, Adrian Lynch and Aaron Davies returned to action. Tom Hutchin moved to full-back and Ben Robson to inside centre.
Gs kicked an early penalty from 25 metres and the mud meant many scrappy exchanges before Chi started their engine and drove with Davies getting close but they were held up twice.
The backs found their feet and Gs were tested in the tackle by Sam Renwick and Robson. From lineout, Nick Blount catch, drive, and then five-metre scrum, the pack could only be stopped illegally and the penalty try was awarded – 7-3 after 20 minutes.
Blount charged up the left wing and following more hard work by Davies and Robson, the ball was arrowed across the backs for Lynch to cut back inside and dive to the line for his well earned first try of the season and a 12-3 lead.
Jack Hamilton-Fox showed his good footwork and then he used his speed to finish off from 15 metres a great handling move from right to left corner, 17-3.
Jack Arden-Brown and Harry Seaman ploughed forward and Gs were under the cosh but tackling hard. They received a yellow card and two others had to receive treatment.
Chi drove again and after Renwick had made ground the ball was recycled by the forwards and Martin ‘Tarzan’ O’Callaghan swung over the top of the defence to score. HT 24-3.
The second period brought a revival by Gs and they showed a strong mauling technique and decent handling, if a bit lateral. Robson and Belcher had to make crunching tackles which stirred supporters on the balcony and under trees dealing with their rheumatics. Lynch delivered some useful and long touch kicks. Wallace also tackled hard as Gs drove from five-metre scrums.
Replacement Declan Johnson was powerful and he cleared from excellent defensive cohesion. Hutchin and Seaman showed their booting prowess as Chi picked up.
Lynch set up position and the backs flowed again. The passing was quick and Belcher sent right winger Toby Golds haring to the corner and displaying his dive without spillage: 29-3.
A couple of newly-laundered shirts collected at the break had been totally baptised in the mud. Chi wrapped it up with more good handling and Hamilton-Fox grabbed his second try to make it 34-3.
In the last play, Gs drove to the Chi line and would not be denied.
There were congratulations to one another by the players who had all shown their sportsmanship. The referee deserves praise for his quiet efficiency and understanding.
Next week the Blues trek north of the Thames to Thurrock to see if they can gain a third double. There’s room on the coach.
Chichester: Deavall, Arden-Brown, Belcher, O’Callaghan, Blount, Charlish, Wallace (capt.), Davies, Seaman, Lynch, Hamilton-Fox, Robson, Renwick, Golds, Hutchin, Drayson, D.Johnson and Jenkinson.
* This is my last regular report as I am hanging up my pen and notebook after 15 seasons, watching Chi in 5 different leagues. They have been very successful and are well established as a leading amateur club. Long may it continue. There have been many great memories and it was nice see a win today and Chi passing 60 league points in fourth place - RG.