Chichester 44 v 26 Maidstone
Chichester followed up their win against high flying Medway last time out with a bonus point win against Maidstone.
Chichester looked to follow up their fantastic win against high flying Medway with what seemed, on paper at least, like an easier home match against bottom of the League Maidstone. But the Blues knew that so far everyone in the League can be competitive and to reinforce that Maidstone had beaten Brighton fairly comfortably the week before. With Brighton having beaten Chichester recently Maidstone would arrive in confident mood of causing a potential upset.
Chichester had to make changes from the previous week with two players from last year’s Colts making their debuts. Alex Margarson starting on the right wing with Will Prior on the bench.
The game started in bright sunshine with the home side quickly on the attack. The ball fizzed out wide and pacey open side flanker Charlie Wallace, tracking in support, surged over with only 2 minutes on the clock. Conversion missed. 5 - 0. The Blues where playing at a cracking pace with Blount collecting the kick-offs and the backs breaking well. Quick transfer saw Tom Hutchin entering the line well at full back to put lightening wing Cam Hopkins on the outside where he gassed past the defence to score the Blues’ 2nd try with only 8 minutes gone. Hutchin slotted the extras. 12 - 0.
After such a strong start the home side perhaps took their foot off the gas and started to fall foul of the referee’s interpretations. Regardless of who was right a number of decisions went against the Blues and the tide turned. Maidstone rallied and through their forwards kept things tight. A series of drives and from their first foray into the Blues’ 22 saw a penalty try and yellow card awarded against Chichester. 12 - 7. This looked incredibly harsh and the stunned Chichester team would have to rally quickly and improve their discipline. With the momentum and the man advantage Maidstone seized the advantage. The penalties kept coming and Blues had their backs against the wall. Another series of tight drives and a Maidstone line-out, deep in Blues’ territory, produced another try. 12 - 14. The pattern continued with a carbon copy play and amazingly Chichester were down another try, trailing 12 - 21. The Blues regrouped with skipper Jack Bentall carrying hard getting over the gain line and, with Lynch pulling the strings, Renwick was starting to cause Maidstone some real problems carving some big holes in their defence. With better ball Cam Hopkins again showed his wheels to ghost over wide. Converted 19 - 21. Chichester were now clicking into gear with the forwards winning excellent lineout and getting the upper hand in the scrums and the backs looking increasingly threatening. Chris Johnson was proving to be a juggernaut with ball in hand bouncing the Maidstone players away and not only gaining vital front foot ball but leaving away defenders strewn across the pitch. Infringements reduced Maidstone to 14 and then 13, with the resulting penalty being converted. 22 - 21. Chichester finished the half with great inter-passing giving skipper Bentall a great line to go over for the bonus point try. 27 - 21. This was quickly followed up by the ever present forward Martin O'Callaghan tracking the play and smashing over for a try wide left. Half time 32 - 21.
The second half was slightly frustrating as the Blues made some simple errors but were much more disciplined in their play and never really let Maidstone back in the match. Young Will Prior now in the front row showed his promise with some fantastic work in the loose and along with Joe Woods Tom Belcher and Sam Drayson really started to dominate the scrum exchanges. Chris Johnson signed off another powerhouse display with two tries, the first after 42 minutes to give the Blues a more comfortable 39 - 21 lead. Maidstone never gave up and through another forward surge scored their bonus point try. 39 - 26. Chris Johnson had the last word as a tiring defence buckled with the big No. 8 hammering home his second try in the 79th minute. Final score 44 - 26.
Scott Ashley, Head Coach “There were some good bits but I'm a bit frustrated to be honest after the excellent performance last week. Maidstone were a handful and we will work on some areas at training this week.”
Chichester squad: Drayson, Belcher, Woods, Blount, Lindsay, O'Callaghan, Wallace, C. Johnson, Seaman, Lynch, Margarson, Bentall (capt.), Renwick, Hopkins, Hutchin, Prior, D. Johnson and Heber.
Next week Chichester are away to Old Colfeians who have won their last 2 matches to move above Maidstone at the bottom of the League. Kick-off is at 14:00.
On Saturday, 16th December Chichester play Tottonians at Oaklands Park. This is the last home game of 2017 and all support is welcome as Chichester look to stay on the League leader’s heels as we enter 2018.