Rugby: Halfway house has Blues sitting pretty
CHICHESTER ended the first half of their inaugural season in National three London south east with another fine victory on the road - 22-13 win at Westcliff.
This was first time the two clubs had met and the Blues were buoyed by a win the week before over powerful Bury St Edmunds.
Chi showed a couple of changes with Henry Anscombe coming in for Danny Gray at No10 and Toby Golds recalled to the bench.
The Blues kicked off and immediately had Westcliff under pressure. Jackson was away and a try looked on but play was forced into touch.
The home side cleared with some excellent kicks which the Blues didn’t handle particularly well.
Westcliff forced an early kickable penalty but the ball was badly scuffed. The Blues regrouped and used the slight slope well with the forwards carrying hard.
Ed Durkin and Anscombe probed with well-judged kick, the lineout was functioning well with Davies and Blount securing on their own ball and the scrum platform was solid.
Chi edged their way towards the try line and kicks to the corner eventually bore fruit with Jack Bentall smashing over for a 5-0 lead.
Chichester’s forward power was taking its toll. The front row of Dowding, Shopland and Veltom were really getting on top at scrum time.
Bentall gave possession to livewire scrum-half Durkin, who used his pace and swerve to glide past two defenders before releasing right winger Alex Marsh, who showed his pace to go outside then inside the despairing defence to scorch round under the posts. Anscombe converted to make it 12-0.
The rest of the half saw good defence by the home side and poor execution by the Blues.
The half-time talk appeared to work as the away side immediately clicked into life. Phil Veltom used his power to burst through the middle, Shopland and Polhill were quick into support with Bentall and Johnson carrying at pace and stretching the defence to breaking point.
Aaron Lowe thrived off front-foot ball using his deceptive pace to get on the outside with a well-timed pass. Jackson backed up to splinter the strong defence and make it 17-0.
A bonus point win looked on the cards but Cliff rallied, buoyed by a big crowd.
The home No8 started to punch some holes and Chi started to concede penalties.
Cliff pounced, charging through the middle to score between the posts.
The momentum had shifted with Westcliff bossing the contact, and only Herculean defence from skipper Polhill held the home side at bay. Two quick penalties were slotted to pull it back to 17-13. The forwards needed to up the level and MoM Veltom put in an unbelievable spell, making countless tackles.
The big prop turned his hand to attack with huge carries. Johnson used his pace and power to carry the Blues up the pitch.
The scrum sprang back into life and shunted forward – Durkin, who had a very decent game, showed his quality and pace to accelerate down the left to outpace the cover and dive over wide out, making it 22-13 with the conversion missed.
Chi were delighted to pick up another five points away from home.
Director of rugby Paul Colley said: “We reach the halfway point with some big lessons learned. There are no easy games with every team showing why they are playing National League – any team on their day can cause an upset.
“Fifth place at this stage in this very strong league in our first season at this level is an unbelievable start but we must back up our good start throughout the whole campaign.
“We will be working hard on this with Rob Lawrence and I looking to challenge this very talented side to keep on improving and doing Chichester proud.”
CHICHESTER: Dowding, Shopland, Veltom, Davies, Blount, Johnson, Polhill, Bentall, Durkin, Anscombe, Jackson, Polhill, Lowe, Marsh, Adams, Belcher, Lindsay, Golds.
The Blues play their last game of 2014 at home to Civil Service this Saturday (2pm) – support is always appreciated.