Chester 1st XV vs Blaydon 1st XV 29-7
Saturday February 10th
This was another well-earned bonus point win for Chester that leaves them firmly in 8th place in the league, six points clear of 9th placed Leicester Lions. It was achieved against a young looking Blaydon side currently languishing at the bottom of the table. The afternoon was dry and quite mild, but the pitch itself was heavy and churned up in places, making the ball greasy and kicking at times perilous. It was clear from the start that accuracy would be at a premium and handling errors were likely.
Chester began well with Jonny Charmley winning a lineout just outside the visitors' 22 in the 8th minute. The forwards drove ten metres before the ball was moved wide to the Chester left. Fullback Tom Foden, coming into the line, had stretch to take a miss pass with his finger tips, but still managed to find his defender's outside shoulder to drift away from him and score from 20 metres. Flyhalf Josh Morris converted to put the home side 7-0 in front after 9 minutes. Turnovers following contact and dropped balls by both sides were already beginning to play their part and reduce the fluency of play, but at the end of the first quarter Blaydon drove a 5 metre lineout and moved the ball into midfield to score a converted try under the posts. Towards the end of the half they had another similar opportunity but their attempted maul was well defended by the home pack and driven into touch.
Chester's attacking endeavours had been inhibited by some good work by Blaydon's jumpers at defensive lineouts, and it seemed likely that the sides would reach half time with the scores level. Blaydon, however, conceded three penalties in quick succession just before halftime to allow the home side to set up a 5 metre lineout of their own. This they duly won and drove before moving the ball infield through a series of pick and goes, where Ross White crossed under the posts for a try converted by Josh Morris.
While kicking was often difficult, because of the sticky surface, Chester's young halfbacks Josh Morris and Harry Craven proved that bit more accurate than their opposite numbers and helped their side, by and large, to get the better of the aerial battle. However, Blaydon correctly believed they were still well in the match and their centres were quick enough to find space at times in the home defence, but their attacks inevitably petered out with dropped passes and Chester turnovers. Then, in the 53rd minute, a loose clearing kick by the visitors only found winger Sean Green in space. He and Tom Foden made ground up the right before the ball was rucked quickly and passed to Josh Morris, supporting well, to score a crucial try in the corner.
Now two scores behind, Blaydon continued to attack, ball in hand, when and where they could in the vain search for a bonus point to aid them in their relegation battle. In the end, however, the final quarter belonged to Chester. First a Blaydon player spilled the ball under his posts, before a team-mate compounded the error by trying to retrieve it while offside. Chester took a scrum from which first Guy Ford and then Mike Craven (returning off the bench after a layoff due to injury) carried into contact, before Jonny Charmley marked another strong performance with a bonus point try in the corner. Almost from the restart, another Blaydon error compounded their problems, when they turned over a ball in their own 22. The home pack then drove the ball forward and crossed for a converted try.