Chichester 22 v 9 Medway
Chichester rose to the big occasion and this superb performance brought them a bonus point victory over the runaway league leaders. Match report by Roger Gould.
Chichester rose to the big occasion and this superb performance brought them a bonus point victory over the runaway league leaders. As the sun dipped in the west after a glorious afternoon, the Chi players and supporters celebrated. Medway had won all of their ten games this season and were 8 points clear at the top. But they met a revitalised Blues squad which had returned to almost full strength, and determined to stop a recent slide. They outmuscled and outplayed the Kent visitors thanks to their dominant forwards, hard running backs and the excellence of their defence when needed in the second half. Medway were disappointed to finally lose so emphatically but sporting in their praise of the Chichester players, especially the pack which they rated the best they had met. Chi scored 4 tries and one conversion to just 3 penalties.
Blues welcomed back Phil Veltom, Scott Barlow, Chris Johnson, Charlie Wallace, Aaron Davies and Sam Renwick. Jamie Wilcock was at full back.
They made an ideal start after 3 minutes in bright sunshine. Veltom and Johnson carried powerfully and sent the backs away. Wilcock offloaded to scrum half Harry Seaman who skated across and touched down half way in from the left corner. Conversion missed. 5 - 0. Nick Blount was soon in catching control at lineouts and the backs stretched their legs and warmed their hands. Medway tried to break free but were stopped abruptly by Wallace, Barlow and Johnson tackles. Two forward passes spoilt the end of flowing Chi attacks before Veltom and Johnson charged from a lineout to set up a chance on the right wing which just failed. Medway made a first advance to the Chi 22 But were driven back and the backs cut loose. At outside centre Sam Renwick made a wonderful silky break and shook off two desperate tackles to sprint over and score on the right. Conversion missed. 10 - 0 on 23 minutes. The scrum seemed to have the edge but the front row were having a hard time satisfying the man in charge. The big men in second and back rows were providing good strength which grew. Chichester went further ahead when Blount collected another Medway throw and Wallace ran it out to launch the backs. Slick passing and Jack Bentall took a clever offload to swerve and dive between the uprights. Wilcock converted. 17 - 0. Medway got into the Chi 22 but missed a penalty. Chi replied and fly half Adrian Lynch made a half break before a penalty was conceded at the ruck. The visitors were slowly getting up to normal speed and worked phases to be given a penalty, this time landed by Harvey. A high tackle stopped a Chi move but no yellow card issued. A rare crooked lineout throw and a forward pass blunted chances and a Johnson intercept and gallop down the left wing was foiled by a turnover. At the break Chi were controlling the game on all fronts but were incurring a high penalty count and they could be sure that Medway would restart briskly after a lecture by their coaches. Half time 17 - 3.
Sure enough, Medway emerged fired up and talking a lot. They attacked towards the right wing and a pass was intercepted by Renwick. He was yellow carded for a deliberate knock on and Harvey kicked the penalty. 17 - 6. The referee might want to review a decision when the Chichester scrum shoved their opponents backwards and they partially collapsed. As Chi drove over they were amazed to be penalised for alleged wheeling. Medway were at last looking dangerous and two more penalties, one from the tee converted by Harvey. 17 - 9. Chi recognised that pressure was building against them and responded. Great inter-passing between Johnson, Lynch and back to Johnson saw the big No. 8 hurtling to the try line where he was just brought down inches short. The ball was rucked and sent out to the greyhound Cameron Hopkins who scored at the left flag. Conversion missed. 22 - 9. From now on it was nip and tuck. Aaron Davies made ground but a later pass was knocked on. Medway pressed with Chi having to resist for the last 20 minutes. Tom Belcher tackled hard to prevent a break from a lineout and Seaman suffered an ankle injury from a kick. Blount continued to win lineout ball to restrict Medway chances. Pressure was applied but Chi tackles went in first up and hard. Bentall was binned for an infringement and Chi were down to 14 again. With 5 minutes to go they were only 13 when Veltom joined his captain to watch the finale. Medway were now determined to score a try and Chi were not going to allow it. Big hits went in to frustrate a wave of attacks and Medway despaired when they knocked on with the line beckoning. Chi then kept the ball in midfield until a turnover gave the men from Rochester a last chance of consolation but replacement Ben Heber won a medal when he tackled them into touch at Vultures Corner. Heber then kicked a penalty out and Chichester had deserved an unforgettable victory.
Next week Blues are at home again, this time to Maidstone. All support welcome to help continue Chi’s good form.
Chicester squad: Woods, Belcher, Veltom, Barlow, Blount, Davies, Wallace, Johnson, Seaman, Lynch, Jenkinson, Bentall (capt.), Renwick, Hopkins, Wilcock, Gingell, O’Callaghan and Heber.