Chichester’s victory is glorious in the mud

Chichester go head to head with Bracknell / Picture by Alison Tanner
Chichester go head to head with Bracknell / Picture by Alison Tanner

On a rainy day in Royal Berkshire, Chichester won a fierce battle in the glorious mud - beating Bracknell to strengthen their mid-table position in National three London south east.

Bracknell missed a last-minute penalty to snatch the points but that would have been hard on the Blues, who had played a good tactical game and defended well when needed.

It was their fourth consecutive success, equalled two such runs last season. It was a demanding game in poor conditions against a tough pack and fast wingers.

Amazingly neither side dropped any of the many high balls which had to be kicked for territory. Chi scored a converted penalty try and a penalty to Bracknell’s three penalties.

They now have 40 league points and are well clear of the relegation places.With confidence and spirit high they can compete well in their last six games, albeit five of them against leading teams.

There were enforced changes from the last game. Sean Shepherd was hooker, Alex Grace at lock, Ben Polhill nearside flanker, Richard Adams moved to fly-half and Dean Bonds to full-back. Matt Mclagan made his debut from the bench.

Heartbreak beckoned for Chi when they were penalised yet again with the clock running down. It was 35 metres out and central but in the middle of mud. Chi supporters breathed a sigh of relief as the kick went wide of the posts.

Travelling Chi fans huddled in the stand against the elements as the game began, Chi exploiting a knock-on and driving forward from a penalty and lineout catch by Jack Bentall.

The hosts managed a clearance kick to touch but Chi drove again from the second lineout to win a penalty which Adams slotted.

Bracknell sniped from halfway with their fly-half Conway and right winger Burch looking slippery. They charged down a kick and Chi defended with firm tackles by Bentall and Shepherd.

Bracknell missed two long-range penalties but a second offside by Chi gave scrum-half Dennett another chance which he landed to make it 3-3.

A bad kick gave possession to Chi and Chris Johnson and Phil Veltom carried strongly to put Jack Maslen away. The outside centre ran hard despite the bog but was tackled ten metres out.

Chi mauled to the line where they were held up. Their scrum rolled forward to score but Bracknell came in from the side to disrupt it and the referee ran to the posts for award of a penalty try, converted by Adams for a 10-3 lead.

Bracknell pressed and Adams rescued with a long clearance from a high kick. Tom Jackson nailed his opponent on the wing.

Chi turned the ball over but lost it and were penalised for not rolling away. The referee was to show no sympathy at all to big men flattened and pinned in the mud. Dennett kicked the penalty.

Polhill intercepted and Chi went toward the right corner and mauled. Bracknell were penalised but the kick drifted wide.

Grace was replaced by Omar Ellaboudy and Bracknell finished the half on the attack, Maslen demonstrating a classic tackle around the waist.

Chi restarted by conceding penalties, Johnson getting a yellow card for his inability to roll underneath a Bracknell heavyweight.

Dennett took the three points to close it to 10-9.

Veltom went to the second row and Tom Belcher came on to replace him at prop. Chi now had to survive ten minutes without their captain and talisman. The penalties mounted but the Blues held on with excellent tackling.

Bentall came away with a run to halfway and a reverse pass which went astray. Johnson returned and Chi moved into enemy territory, won a penalty to touch but lost the lineout.

Bracknell were persistent and handled well across the back line but failed to penetrate. Replacement Mclagan ran on but Bracknell pressed, missing a penalty.

Belcher brought off a good tackle before Chi started a key ten minutes when they moved into the Bracknell half and stayed there.

Johnson had a burst along the left touchline and went close on the opposite corner when a try was missed because of a knock-on.

Inside centre Rhys Thompson had a fine run showing his evasive skill and Chi seemed to have scored after picking up a loose ball, but the referee brought them back to give them a scrum instead.

Ellaboudy and a Bracknell player were sin-binned for alleged handbags as the attrition continued and the whistle kept blowing.

Bracknell had one last-gasp attempt and their forwards and backs hammered at the Chi 22 but met consistently-hard tackles with a special one around the legs by Jackson.

Heartbreak beckoned for Chi when they were penalised yet again with the clock running down. It was 35 metres out and central but in the middle of mud. Chi supporters breathed a sigh of relief as the kick went wide of the posts.

The win avenged Chi’s narrow defeat in the home fixture.

The Blues have no game this week, then on March 5 they will host Westcliff, who are 12th.

CHICHESTER: Woods, Shepherd, Veltom, Grace, Davies, Polhill, Bentall, Johnson, Seaman, Adams, MacEnri, Thompson, Maslen, Jackson, Bonds, Belcher, Ellaboudy, McLagan.

ROGER GOULD

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