Chichester can’t feel the width - now come big tests

Chris Johnson in action in the previous week's game with Bracknell / Picture by Kate Shemilty KS1500562-4

Chris Johnson in action in the previous week's game with Bracknell / Picture by Kate Shemilty KS1500562-4

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Chichester had a good first half in their crucial National three London south east game at Westcliff – but then allowed themselves to be sucked into playing narrow ten-man rugby and came off second best, losing 18-10.

They failed to use their backs who had scored two well-worked tries and Westcliff were able to get an extra eight points to achieve their first win of the season.

Chi must use their backs or they will continue to fail. The writing is on the wall and plain to see. If they don’t become tactically aware in matches they will be in a relegation dogfight very soon.

They have now slipped to 11th place in the league and have lost two consecutive games which they needed to win.The margin in this one was two tries, a conversion and two penalties to two tries.

Blues had been forced to make five changes, down mainly to injuries, which have made things difficult. It was a cold and miserable afternoon which greeted the players and a handful of Chi supporters after a long journey.

Richard Adams and Alex Marsh soon put the Blues into the home 22 with a break and then a foot rush. The pack mauled, Adams floated a neat kick over the top and and winger Dean Bonds won a race to score at the right corner. Conversion missed.

Chi must use their backs or they will continue to fail. The writing is on the wall and plain to see. If they don’t become tactically aware in matches they will be in a relegation dogfight very soon.

Chi were looking sharp and handling competently. But they were not alert when Westcliff took a quick tap and go 20 metres out and went through a gaping hole to dive over near the right corner. An excellent conversion to put them 7-5 ahead against the run of play.

Marsh missed a penalty before Chi attacked with controlled phases including a big driving maul. They exerted pressure for 15 minutes until Bonds was given the chance to offload to Jack Maslen in support.

The full-back had a lot to do but he beat a man on the outside and then skated along the the touchline to plunge across for a fine try. Conversion too difficult.

Westcliff stirred again with a half break in the centre and won a penaltyon the 22 in front of the posts and converted. Chi won free kicks at the other end and opted for scrums. They attacked strongly with flanker Ben Polhill supporting the backs but they ran into solid tackles and were finally turned over.

Before the break the hosts were showing signs of revival with thei first pressure on the Blues defence. In addition, Chi were conceding too many penalties at the breakdown.

At half-time it was level at 10-10 and Chi should have been in the lead. The match was there for the taking but it all went wrong.

The Blues began the second period with a promising scrum and drive maul. They were also doing reasonably at the lineouts with their own throws.

Westcliff were roused by their supporters sheltering on the balcony and handed the job to their well-built forwards. They missed a long penalty and then began sustained pressure, winning and retaining the ball at close quarters.

Chi defended hard between midfield and their 22 with good cover and tackles. But when they did get the ball they kept it in the forwards and were turned over too often. The scrum was effective with replacement Joe Woods having his first outing and bolstering the front row.

However, No8 Johnson carried from the back without support and the backs became very cold. Westcliff were now on top but had not breached.

Chi conceded another penalty in front and fell behind 13-10.

The referee’s decisions were sometimes mysterious, especially when Chi attacked at last and their scrum destroyed their opponents, running over them.

A penalty to Chi was obvious but not given. They had a last chance when they charged down a clearance but Westcliff scrambled to clear.

Westcliff’s determined pack turned the screw and a penalty was taken but fell short Chi tred to run it back from their line but a tackle lost them possession 20 metres out.

Westcliff scrum wheeled left and the ball sent blindside for a pass to the left winger who beat a tackle and scored the try which deprived Chi of a losing bonus point. Westcliff then closed down the play and celebrated as the final whistle blew.

Chi now face four games in a row against top-six clubs in the league. They begin this week at home to powerful East Grinstead, who have made many new signings this season especially from abroad.

Last season Chi caused one of the big upsets when they beat them. They will need huge support to do it again, so please roll up to help the Blues. Kick-off at Oaklands Park is at 2.30pm.

CHICHESTER: Dowding, Richter, Vadei, O’Callaghan, Dickin, Ellaboudy, Polhill, Johnson, Seaman, Adams, MacEnri, Robson, Marsh, Bonds, Maslen, Woods, Lowe, Pollard.

ROGER GOULD

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