This was probably one of the less exciting of the recent matches played at Hare Lane writes Des Hickie. Defences tended to be on top most of the time so that, whilst a lot of energy was expended, the scoreboard moved only occasionally. Newly promoted Hull gave a good account of themselves, but rarely threatened the home try line.
Chester kicked off on a cool and blustery afternoon, and tended to dominate territory in the early exchanges. In particular Hull had problems exiting their 22 - kicking loosely and allowing the Chester back three opportunities to run the ball back at them. However, chances came and went as knock ons caused promising attacks to break down. Then, at the end of the first quarter, a penalty yielded an attacking 5 metre lineout for Chester. The pack drove the ball infield and back outwards again for captain Colin Campbell to cross for the try. Fly half Callum Bennett kicked an excellent conversion from the touchline. Almost from the restart a penalty gave Hull fly half Simon Humberstone what looked quite a straightforward shot at goal. His attempt hit the post, leaving Chester with a 7-0 lead they held on to for the next half an hour.
Hull were able to spend some time in Chester’s half because, faced with a stiffish breeze at times, the home side tended to run the ball out of defence. This was fine in principle but the ball just would not stick. Promising moves developed, only to be snuffed out by knock ons and at least one Hull interception. Just before half time a half break by Macca van Sertima seemed to have led to a try but, after consulting his assistant, the referee ruled a knock on.
The second half began with Hull’s substitute prop Chris Bell being binned for a high tackle. Three penalties in rapid succession against the visitors allowed Chester to set up a very promising attacking position with another 5 metre lineout. This time, however, Chester’s body positions were too upright allowing Hull successfully to hold them out. Hull then had their most successful attack of the match following two penalties in rapid succession against Chester. First, their tight head prop Mike Jobling spun out of a tackle on the Chester 22 and barreled 15 metres before being hauled down. Then the Hull pack got a nudge on at a Chester 5 metre defensive scrum. The ball squirted out and scrum half Tom Holloway was caught in possession and dispossessed. This allowed a Hull forwad to drop over the line for a try. Once again fly half Simon Humberstone’s kick hit the post and bounced out. The five points lost by his two strikes against the uprights were to prove very significant. If he had kicked either Chester would not have retained the lead and momentum as the clock ran down.
As it was, Chester dominated territory for the remainder of the match. Some excellent touch finders from Simon Humberstone helped to keep them at bay, but largely they lacked the ingenuity to break down some commendable Hull defence. Hull did cough up penalties at regular intervals, but Chester put the ball into the corner each time searching without success for a second try. Hull may have tested the referee’s patience as they defended several driven lineouts, but they were ultimately successful in repelling them. When the ball was moved wide the Chester backs could find no way through in midfield.
The logjam was finally broken in the 76th minute, when Chester were awarded a scrum just inside Hull territory. There was a significant blindside down the left hand touchline, and Tom Holloway moved ball quickly in that direction. Two passes later, one a lovely miss ball in front of a threatening Macca van Sertima, found Harrison Vare with the ball in space on the left wing. He sprinted 35 metres down the touchline and scored untouched in the corner. Callum Bennett’s second excellent touchline conversion robbed Hull of the losing bonus point they may well have deserved.