Chester 1st XV vs Sedgley Park 7-31
Saturday November 11th
This was a first home defeat of the season for Chester, but in fairness it was to a strong Tigers side playing some good rugby. Chester put in a determined defence from first to last, but could not withstand the visitors’ ability to maintain pressure and eventually find space, often in the wide channels.
The match began very much in the way it was to develop, with Tigers dominating possession and Chester finding it very difficult to exit from their back third of the pitch. The first half an hour consisted of Tigers’ attacks built largely through their ability to recycle possession quickly whilst leaving a couple of forwards out wide to create overlaps when the ball came back to them. However, despite creating four clear scoring chances, a mixture of excellent Chester defending, often on their try line, and handling errors kept the score at 0-0 for 28 minutes. Chester even managed to hold Tigers out when Guy Ford was binned following maul on his try line in the ninth minute. The home side’s broader problem was their inability to exit their own half. Lineout malfunctions and handling errors simply pulled Tigers’ pressure back onto them. The dam finally burst when a quickly recycled ball from an attacking lineout close to the Chester line allowed their fly half Stephen Collins to take the ball on a loop in midfield and make the break before giving an inside pass for a well worked try which he then converted.
From the restart Chester managed their first real attack of the day, but poor ball from a lineout just outside the visitors’ 22 led eventually to a Tigers’ turnover. As the half moved to a close it seemed as though the home side might just be able to go in at half time only seven points down – a decent result in the circumstances. But two tries in the last four minutes gave them a much more substantial deficit to chase. The first, came following Alick Croft’s binning for a deliberate knock on his own try line. Tigers’ scrum half Callum McShane ran the resulting penalty to his right and then the ball was recycled quickly left for an unconverted try. Just before the final whistle of the half Tigers ran back a Chester clearance before Collins produced an excellent cross-field kick to right wing Oliver Glasse in space. He made progress up his wing before finding scrum half McShane on his inside for a converted try.
Chester began chasing the 17-0 deficit brightly at the start of the second period. Despite losing a lineout in Tigers’ 22 they managed to turn over the ball before moving it quickly left for wing Matt Crowe to score a try, converted by Liam McGovern. Chester had realigned their backs at the interval, with Harry Craven and James Robins coming on at half back, Tom Foden moving to 12 and Liam to full back. The changes continued to pay dividends as Harry, James and Tom all managed clean breaks during the half. Unfortunately the Chester attack was never quite able to fully crack the visitors’ defence. Tigers moved ahead with what was a well worked try down their right flank in the 53rd minute – except that it appeared from the stand to be preceded by a forward pass in midfield. At 7- 26 Tigers were now in the driving seat. In the 65th minute they drove a 5 metre lineout for a converted try which put them out of sight.
The final quarter saw Chester have their best sustained period of pressure of the match. Two more lost lineouts, a missed penalty to touch, and perhaps a lack of control with the ball in hand, just prevented them from building sufficient pressure to crack the Tigers’ defence. Nevertheless it demonstrated the home side’s capacity, with a little more accuracy, to create scoring opportunities even against one of the league’s best sides.