Chichester found high-flying hosts Sevenoaks too strong as they fell to a 36-17 defeat in their final away game of their London one south season.
The Blues made seven changes as Richard Ives, Dane Gingell, Baz Magda and Ben Polhill came into the forwards, with recent colts Jack Martin, Hamish Minton and Joe Knight on the bench.
Sevenoaks started in second place knowing nothing less than a bonus-point win would keep them in the title race. Persistent drizzle and a stiff breeze did little to dampen the spirits of a large crowd.
From the kick-off Chichester were under the cosh, defending their goal-line, as Sevenoaks looked for an early score. With four minutes gone Dane Gingell left the field with a calf injury and Chi had to reorganise the pack, with Ives moving to hooker and Magda to prop.
Sevenoaks started making errors. This allowed Blues some respite, moving the ball into the opposition half, with runs from Eddie Jenkinson, Rhys Thompson and Matt McLagan.
After 31 minutes, Sevenoaks broke through the Blues defence to score, and ther conversion meant it was 7-0.
Chichester lost Thompson to a shoulder injury requiring a reorganisation in the backs, with 19-year-old Martin coming off the bench to play scrum half.
On the stroke of half-time Sevenoaks scored a second try which was converted.
Chichester started the second half with the wind behind them, allowing Henry Anscombe to get them on the scoreboard with a drop goal four minutes in.
It only took Sevenoaks 16 minutes second-half minutes to achieve their objective, running in two more tries to secure the important bonus point.
Both conversions were missed but it was 24-3.
Blues hadn’t read the script and started a fightback. Superb kicking from Anscombe tested the opposition backs and Sevenoaks found themselves contained in their own half for nearly 20 minutes. Attempts to break out were dealt with efficiently and Blues were competing for every ball at the breakdown.
A kick to the corner from Anscombe provided a lineout opportunity ten metres out. The ball was gathered by Ryan Boulton and taken to ground by Ives.
Joe Woods picked up and battered his way through the Sevenoaks defence, supported by Boulton and Ben Polhill, to touch down. Converted, 24-10.
With six minutes left Blues had a scrum on the 22m line. The pack went through the phases with a series of pick and goes, marshalled by Polhill, moving the ball closer to the try line with every carry. Woods took the ball over the line for his second try and the conversion made it 24-17.
There was concern from the Sevenoaks faithful, with time running out.
The effort expended getting back within seven points had taken its toll and there was little left in the tank as physio Holly Boarer made running repairs to the Blues, and Sevenoaks ran in two late tries.
Sevenoaks, unbeaten at home this season, have the best defensive record in the league. Blues will take positives having lost two players early and seemingly being out of it after 56 minutes. This was a great performance from the whole team, six of whom were under 20.
Supporters’ man of the match was Joe Woods.
Chichester: Ives, Gingell, Woods, Boulton, Magda, Makasi, Polhill, Wallace (Capt.), Baker, Anscombe, McLagan, Thompson, Renwick, Jenkinson, Davies, Martin, Minton and Knight.
* Chichester entertain Westcombe Park first and second teams on Saturday for the final fixture of the 2018-19 season. Westcombe Park’s director of rugby is Blues’ ex-head coach Rob Lawrence. The games kick off at 1.30pm and 3pm.