Blues begin well, but are knocked off the Shelf

The Blues on the front foot at Shelford / Picture by Alison Tanner
The Blues on the front foot at Shelford / Picture by Alison Tanner

After a promising first half at Shelford when they had more of the play, Chichester lost their momentum under pressure by the strong home pack and conceded 17 points.

Shelford collected a bonus-point National three London south east win by three tries, a penalty try, two conversions and a penalty to one converted try.

Chi fought hard but Shelford have a good squad and are capable of keeping their fifth place in the league.

The Blues were forced to make changes because of serious injuries to their centres and the unavailability of Aaron Davies and Richard Adams. Sam Renwick returned after 18 months and Jack Maslen after two months. Harry Seaman moved to inside centre, Jak Evans to full-back and Ben Robson came on to the bench.

It was very cloudy and dull with muddy patches on the pitch following rain as Chi kicked off. Evans and Jack Bentall were involved in the first attacks and phases were worked but fly half Taff Davies missed a penalty. But he sidestepped and launched a series of forward drives before a pass was dropped on the wing.

Shelford stirred with a break by their inside centre but he was tackled into touch. Chi followed a high kick and went patiently through phases across the field to create the overlap on the left wing, Matt Woodhouse scoring the first try. An excellent conversion by Davies from the touchline made it 7-0 to Chi.

Blues are home to Dorking on Saturday, every game vital to their chance of narrowing an eight-point gap between them and the team above. Kick-off is 2pm.

A lineout throw was crooked and from the scrum Shelford spun the ball out to their young Tongan international Paea at outside centre. With electric pace he went through a gap, beat a tackle and accelerated from halfway, passing to supporting flanker Beswick to go over from five metres.

Phil Dickin caught at the lineout for another Chi thrust but they were turned over. Chris Johnson was breaking first tackles but the home cover was well organised with consistently good line speed.

They won a scrum against the head and pressed hard to the line. Using pick and go they finally went to the right flank and Paea was across after evading the last tackle. It was 10-7 to Shelford at the break.

Shelford looked threatening as they pushed Chi on to the back foot with some determined play by their burly forwards. Tackling by both sides was hard at this critical time. Woodhouse had a useful run, supported by Evans and Tom Belcher, but a turnover was conceded.

Then a calamity as scrum-half Henry Anscombe tried to clear his lines but his kick was charged down near the 22 and Shelford’s fly-half seized the rebound and had a clear run to left of the post. It was converted by full-back Hrbec luckily off the inside of the post – 17-7 to Shelford. Hrbec added an easy penalty to make it 20-7.

Chi showed spirit with Alex Grace, Martin O’Callaghan and Belcher carrying. The backs took it on but Robson was forced out.

There was a period of kicking for position by both teams before Shelford advanced wanting a bonus point. Sadly Bentall was knocked out and after treatment was helped off.

Rearrangement did not help as Chi held out near their try line and with just three minutes to go they infringed once too often and the referee awarded a penalty try, converted in front by Hrbec. Chi had done their best and were disappointed and muddy as they trooped off.

Blues are home to Dorking on Saturday, every game vital to their chance of narrowing an eight-point gap between them and the team above. Kick-off is 2pm and all Chi supporters are needed.

Chichester: Deavall, Giddings, Belcher, Dickin, O’Callaghan, Grace, Bentall, Johnson, Anscombe, Davies, Woodhouse, Seaman, Renwick, Maslen, Evans, Vadei, Shepherd, Robson.

ROGER GOULD

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