Chichester 20 v 28 Thurrock
Chichester gave themselves too much to do after a lack lustre first half, but nearly snatched a losing bonus point at the death.
Blues made 6 changes to the side that beat top of the league Brighton last time out. Josh Cameron came into the pack, with Eddie Jenkinson and Charlie Norton in the backs and Tyrese Makasi, John Lindsay and Ben Heber on the bench.
After 3 wins on the bounce, an expectant crowd were massed on the balcony. Conditions were overcast with a slight breeze.
Chichester kicked off down the slope but immediately found themselves back defending their 22 metre line as Thurrock probed, looking for an opening. The ball was passed back to the Thurrock fly half for a drop goal. 0 - 3 with less than 2 minutes on the clock. The next 20 minutes were forgettable, punctuated with handling errors and infringements as both sides struggled to keep possession. Finally a breakthrough by the visitors with a well weighted chip over the top which Blues managed to gather at the expense of a 5 metre scrum. From the scrum an inside pass wrong footed the Chichester defence and Thurrock’s outside centre dotted down. Converted. 0 - 10. From the restart Blues were immediately under pressure again but held firm. On a rare foray into the Thurrock half the visitors infringed and Henry Anscombe kicked a penalty from just short of half way. 3 - 10 and 10 minutes left in the half. From the restart Blues conceded a penalty in kicking range. 3 - 13. Once again Blues conceded a penalty shortly after the restart and found themselves back on their 22 metre line defending. Now playing with confidence, Thurrock passed the ball across the width of the pitch, in both directions, before a long pass found the winger and a sidestep beat 3 Chichester defenders, for a second try. Conversion missed. 3 - 18 and still 4 minutes to half time. Blues finally put together a series of passes and moved the ball into the opposition half. This time it was Thurrock’s turn to get caught offside in front of the posts. With a free ball Anscombe attempted a drop goal which was just wide but didn’t miss the subsequent penalty. With seconds left another Thurrock infringement provided Anscombe with a long range penalty that was just wide. 6 - 18 and half time, with Chichester seemingly down and out.
The first 10 minutes of the second half saw the referee produce his yellow card 4 times, reducing both teams to 13 players. Blues started to grow in confidence and moved the ball into the Thurrock red zone, gaining ground with a series of pick and goes. Despite resolute defending Sam Drayson found a gap to ground the ball in Vultures Corner, much to the delight of the Chi faithful on the balcony. Conversion from out wide by Anscombe. 13 - 18. Thurrock responded immediately and Blues once again found themselves defending phase after phase, as the visitors tried to find a gap. In the end a long pass created an overlap and they winger ran around the end of the Chichester defence to score. Converted. 13 - 25 and 18 minutes left to play. An infringement from the restart allowed Anscombe to kick for the corner. From the lineout Blues gathered the ball and drove for the line. Phil Veltom crossed the line but the referee signalled that it had been held up, before producing a yellow card and reducing Thurrock to 14 players. From the scrum Chichester bulldozed the visitors back across the try line for Ben Polhill to touch down. Another conversion from out wide by Anscombe. 20 - 25 with just over 10 minutes left and a man advantage. It was Thurrock who scored next from a penalty for offside in front of the posts. 20 - 28. With time running out Chichester upped their game winning a penalty which Anscombe kicked into touch in Vultures Corner. The drive from the lineout was held and a free ball signalled. The ball was recycled to Anscombe for a deft kick the full width of the pitch for Ben Heber to collect in the in goal area. The referee indicated a knock on as the ball was grounded and play returned to Vultures Corner for a scrum. An infringement allowed Thurrock to clear down field and relieve the pressure, but good work from the forwards turned over the ball. Chichester moved the ball across the field and a pass to Charlie Wallace found a gap in the Thurrock defence, for a 45 metre run to the line. The referee deemed it forward and Blues hopes of securing a losing bonus point were dashed. Full time and 20 - 28.
Chichester squad: Drayson, Cameron, Terry, Veltom, Gibson, Polhill, Wallace (Capt.), Johnson, Cone, Anscombe, Baker, Seaman, Jenkinson, Golds, Heber, Makasi, Lindsay and Norton.
On Saturday, 2nd of March Chichester travel up to south west London to play London Cornish. Kick-off is at 14:30.