Blues down Dons to make it three in a row

Chris Johnson plays the skipper's role for Chi against the Dons / Picture by Kate Shemilt

Chris Johnson plays the skipper's role for Chi against the Dons / Picture by Kate Shemilt

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As usual, Chichester found Wimbledon Dons a hard nut to crack – but crack them they did, winning their vital National three London south east game 15-8 in front of an approving Oaklands Park crowd.

Despite almost total dominance in the second half, they clinched the win only in the last minute.

The Dons’ defence had been battered but repelled all the attacks until the final severest pressure. Their resilience earned them a deserved losing bonus point.

It was Chi’s third consecutive victory, the margin being two tries, a conversion and penalty to a try and a penalty. They have moved up to ninth place with seven games remaining, three of them at home.

They have regained their confidence and have the momentum to win more games, the next two against Bracknell and Westcliff being equally important.

It was chilly and the pitch was sticky after a lot of rain. A forwards battle was likely.

It was Chi’s third consecutive victory, the margin being two tries, a conversion and penalty to a try and a penalty. They have moved up to ninth place with seven games remaining, three of them at home.

With many supporters still lunching in the clubhouse, Blues made a poor start. They immediately tried to run the ball across the backs when caution was the better policy in the conditions.

Rhys Thompson tried to offload in the tackle but the ball went loose and Dons kicked long towards the try line. Full-back Richard Adams raced back to gather but was caught five metres out and penalised.

Dons’ captain Hallett landed a good kick for the first three points. Chi started several attacks but knocked on twice in the open and once in the lineout.

The Dons showed their mobility as tighthead Bayford made good progress on the left flank and their backs probed for an opening.

Fly-half Croke sent a perfect grubber kick to the try line and beat the turning defenders to touch down the first try. Hallett missed the conversion, but it was 8-0 to the visitors after 15 minutes.

Chi drove into Vultures’ Corner but were held up by good tackling. They switched to the right wing and from lineout catch and drive, their maul rolled forward and Phil Veltom scored.

Dons’ scrum-half stupidly ran through a ruck and appeared to strike Harry Seaman in the face. Seaman was deemed to have retaliated, so both went to the sin bin and Chi were awarded the penalty which Adams slotted for 8-8.

Chi attacked on the right with Jack Maslen making a half-break and Dean Bonds running hard but tackled just in time. Dons had a useful maul but Chi won the ball back and Danny Gray cleared to touch.

Jack Bentall broke clear and gained territory with a kick along the touchline. Hard-working lock Omar Ellaboudy received a cut to his head and was replaced by Sean Shepherd.

Chi attacked in force across the pitch and Dons were fully stretched again but they held out for several minutes.

Half-time came with Chi getting the upper hand with the edge in scrums and open play. But their lineout was misfiring and chances would be missed as a result in the second period.

Chi restarted strongly by mauling 25 metres, followed by the backs handling well at speed. The pack pressed to the right corner and with pick and go hammered at the door which refused to open thanks to well-marshalled defence and tackles which knocked them back.

Finally Veltom was inches short from a sequence of drives and rucks and Dons won a penalty to clear their lines.

Blues went straight back and were 15 metres from the left corner when they lost another lineout and then thrusts by Thompson, Maslen and Adams were thwarted.

Jack Arden-Brown was injured and replaced by Tom Belcher. Dons moved into the Chi half for the first time since the break but any danger ended when they knocked on.

Former Chi player Aaron Lowe kicked long to touch on the Chi 22 but nothing came from the lineout.

In the remaining 20 minutes Chi had all the attacks and Dons were under the cosh. There were powerful runs by Chris Johnson from the back of the scrum, crashing well over the gain line every time.

Veltom and Aaron Davies were carrying well and all the forwards were making an impact at close quarters. Dons manned the barricades, tackled like demons and won a couple of turnovers.

Quite dramatically, Belcher broke clear brilliantly from the halfway line, selling a dummy and sprinting near the right touchline before passing outside. They were forced into touch but it gave Chi a last chance to get the try their pressure deserved.

A Dons lineout throw was disrupted, Chi seized the ball, drove and rucked once more. They were patient from five metres out and then controlled things carefully for Seaman to pounce like a rattlesnake and dive over in triumph. He pressed down with a radiant smile on his face and the Chi team and supporters celebrated. Time was up as Adams converted.

This week Blues go to Bracknell, who are just three points behind them in the league. All support is welcome as Chi try to continue their winning run.

CHICHESTER: Woods, Arden-Brown, Veltom, O’Callaghan, Davies, Ellaboudy, Bentall, Johnson, Seaman, Gray, Bonds, Thompson, Maslen, Marsh, Adams, Belcher, Shepherd, Jackson.

ROGER GOULD

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