Slow start costs Chichester dear against Belsize Park
Chichester lost their final away game of the season’s first half, going down 36-12 at Belsize Park.
For the game against one of this season’s promoted sides the Blues made seven changes to the side that beat Camberley.
Debutant Alfie Montague and Ben Polhill came into the forwards, Josh Goodwin and Toby Golds returned in the backs with Kyle Armstrong and Tom Knight, also new to the squad, on the bench.
Traffic gridlock, caused by Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, delayed Chichester’s independent travellers and the match kicked off without any replacements available.
After heavy showers during the week the pitch was extremely soft with standing water in a couple of places and a chill wind blowing across Regents Park.
The Belsize Park pack were large, mobile and well-drilled and moved the ball forward relentlessly for the first 18 minutes as Blues tried everything they could to stem the advance. However, the soft ground was made for forwards and Chichester found themselves 17-0 down having conceded three tries, one of which was converted.
Belsize Park opted for a clearance kick which provided the Blues’ backs with some ball and, despite slippery conditions, they used it to good effect, combining with the forwards and containing the opposition in their own half for nearly ten minutes.
Chris Johnson was at his rampaging best as he carried the ball forward probing the Belsize Park defence. However, a missed tackle provided Belsize Park with their bonus point for a fourth try on the half hour mark, converted for 24-0.
There was concern on the touchline from the Chichester faithful but, as earlier in the season against Havant, the team dug deep and raised their game.
Tyrese Makasi was chasing every loose ball, Gareth Davies was felling props and Josh Goodwin was delivering accurate, long flat balls. The Blues spent the final ten minutes of the half camped in the Belsize Park half searching for an opening.
Davies chased a kick through and Belsize conceded a penalty for not releasing the ball. The referee walked them back ten metres for backchat and Chi kicked to the corner.
The ball was secured at the lineout by Nick Blount and Davies darted over from acting scrum-half to dot down. It was converted by Davies.
Belsize Park came out of the blocks in the second half with a similar intensity to the start of the match and after five minutes had scored a fifth try, converted to make it 31-7.
Chichester didn’t panic and as the opposition pack started to tire they moved the ball around with big carries from Ben Deavall, Martin O’Callaghan and Charlie Wallace.
Chris Johnson was used at every opportunity and the No8 burst through the Belsize Park defence on the 22m line and offloaded to Rhys Thompson out wide to score in the corner, 31-12 after 52 minutes.
As the clock ran down both teams played entertaining rugby and had a number of chances. Belsize Park did cross the whitewash once more.
This was a disappointing result and Chichester remain seventh in London one south, still looking for an elusive victory away from home.
Supporters’ men of the match were Davies (backs) and Makasi (forwards).
Chichester: Deavall, Makasi, Montague, Blount, O’Callaghan, Polhill, Wallace, Johnson, Goodwin, Davies, McLagan, Baker, Thompson, Golds, Seaman, Shopland, Knight, Armstrong.
Chichester’s final match of 2019 is on Saturday at home to Havant at Oaklands Park (2pm).