London Cornish 31 v 26 Chichester
By Simon Tanner
A thoroughly entertaining game and great advert for Level 6 rugby.
Chichester made 9 changes to the side that lost to Thurrock last time out. Richard Ives, Joe Woods, Ryan Boulton, Martin O’Callaghan and Declan Johnson came into the pack, with Gareth Davies, Sam Renwick, Matt McLagan and Tom Blewitt in the backs. Chris Johnson, Blues’ influential No 8, had picked up an injury in training and was replaced by namesake Declan, making his first appearance of the season. Chichester boasted 5 recognised scrum halves in their squad!
With south west London bathed in early spring sunshine, conditions were excellent for running rugby.
Chichester kicked off into the light breeze and soon had Cornish under pressure, winning a scrum against the head and stealing the ball at a lineout. The opposition were penalised in their red zone and Blues opted for a scrum rather than a kick to the corner. The Chichester pack drove for the line and the referee signalled advantage which came to nothing. Harry Seaman took a quick penalty, darting across the line unchallenged to open the scoring. Converted by Henry Anscombe. 0 -7 after 5 minutes. Cornish responded but could not hold on to the ball, knocking on 3 times in attacking positions. Finally, an overthrow from Chichester was gathered by the Cornish flanker. His run was stopped short, but not the subsequent pick and go. Converted 7 - 7. From the restart Chichester were soon back in the Cornish half. A powerful run from Sam Drayson made ground and Cornish were penalised within Anscombe’s kicking range. 7 - 10. Blues were playing with confidence and a ball from Shaun Baker to Drayson was passed out wide to full back Tom Blewitt. His cut inside, to draw the defender, and sublime one handed pass sent Gareth Davies on his way. The chip and chase was won by the defender but Blewitt’s follow up forced the 22 metre drop out. The game ebbed and flowed for another 12 minutes until an infringement by Chichester, on the 22 metre line, provided Cornish with the opportunity to score their second try. Converted. 14 - 10. Blues responded immediately putting Cornish under pressure in the red zone. An infringement provided a kick to the corner and from the lineout the forwards drove the opposition over the line for Declan Johnson to dot down. Conversion missed. 14 - 15. As the half drew to a close Henry Anscombe kicked a drop goal to increase Chichester’s lead. Half time. 14 - 18.
The start of the second half was punctuated with handling errors, but it was Cornish who scored first. Chichester conceded a penalty in their red zone which was kicked to the corner. From the lineout the opposition drove towards the line allowing the scrum half to dart over and score. Converted. 21 - 18. From the restart Chichester were immediately on the attack with the ball passing through the hands of Anscombe, Sam Renwick, Matt McLagan, Blewitt, Callum Cone, Seaman and finally back to McLagan for a try in the corner. Conversion missed 21 - 23. It only took Cornish 4 minutes to respond with a long pass creating an overlap for try number 4. Converted. 28 - 23. Shortly after Cornish lost a man to the sin bin for a deliberate knock on. Anscombe converted the penalty. 28 - 26 and still 20 minutes left. With the man advantage Chichester increased the pressure, advancing to the 5 metre line. Despite the best efforts of Phil Veltom, Drayson and Joe Woods the Cornish defence stood firm. With the opposition back at full strength Blues continued to apply pressure in the red zone but were still unable to find a way through. With the clock running down a rare attack by Cornish saw the left winger break tackles and head off down the touchline for what seemed a certain try. A brilliant cover tackle from Blewitt took the Cornish player into touch inches from the try line. As Blues played the ball out of defence they conceded a penalty in front of the posts allowing Cornish to run down the clock and increase their lead to 5 points. Full time. 31 - 26 and a losing bonus point for Chichester.
Blues will be disappointed not to have left SW15 with 5 points, having spent the last quarter of the game camped in the Cornish half. However, the exiles defence was very well organised and the fitness levels of both sets of forwards impressive. The game was a great advert for club rugby, played in good spirit and providing great entertainment (the lead changed 6 times).
Supporters’ man of the match was Declan Johnson.
Chichester squad: Drayson, Ives, Woods, Boulton, Gibson, O’Callaghan, Wallace (Capt.), Johnson, Baker, Anscombe, Davies, Seaman, Renwick, McLagan, Blewitt, Veltom, Makasi, and Cone.
On Saturday, 9th of March Chichester entertain Chobham at Oaklands Park. Kick-off is at 14:30.