Chichester can’t get home and hosed at Hove

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Chichester knew it would be a tricky test when they headed east along the coast to take on their old Sussex rivals Hove in London one south.

Chichester had taken the spoils in the home fixture and have had an outstanding season since - but the very wet weather of recent weeks was going to make this a different challenge - and so it proved as Chichester went down 26-5.

The Blues were shorn of several key players - Johnson, Woods and Polhill were injured and big Phil Veltom was unavailable.

These powerful forwards were sorely missed, particularly once the extent of the wet weather had been seen.

Both clubs agreed the first-team pitch was a serious cause for concern. The one used instead was in reasonable nick but the very steep slope and the blustery wind was going to prove very challenging.

The Blues choose to play down the hill and against the significant wind – somewhat surprisingly - and struggled to come to terms with the conditions, with a lot of spilled passes.

Hove looked the sharper but good cover tackling kept them at bay – however within ten minutes Chi had lost influential scrum half Billy Toone to injury and after 20 minutes, powerful second-row Jack Taggart had to leave the field.

Hove slotted three points and alarm bells were ringing. The Blues were starting to show signs of life, as shown by two thundering tackles by Jack Bentall, with probably the tackle of the season, followed by Bond with another bone-crunching effort.

But even though the Blues were getting some control, the Hove kickers used the wind well to drive the Blues back.

With 15 minutes to go in the first half, Chi were camped in the home 22 with a succession of drives close to the line.

Eventually skipper Moses Kasujja powered over, though the conversion was missed.

Richard Adams went on a fantastic 50m run but lost his footing and spilled the ball.

Chichester kept up the pressure but a combination of good scrambling defence and poor execution left the half-time score 5-3.

Aaron Davies, who had been ill all week, had given all he could and had to come off early in the second half, forcing Gray, who had already retired injured, to have to go back on.

Hove sensed their chance with their scrum now dominant. Aided to some degree by the slope and the sapping effect of the forward injuries, they drove the blue eight back over the line to take a 10-5 lead.

Kasujja and Bentall led by example but the momentum had shifted the home side’s way.

With 20 minutes to go, a very unsavoury head-high tackle on stand-in No9 Harry Seaman left the young player poleaxed. After a long wait he had to leave the field, leaving the blues down to 14 for the remainder of the game.

Despite the sterling efforts of 18-year-old Alex Grace, who threw himself into the contact zone, the Blues could not get the ball forward and the depleted side could not withstand Hove’s late surge, with two tries scored out wide.

The game ended with another flourish out wide to give Hove the bonus point 26-5 victory.

Chichester director of rugby Paul Colley said: “We made some poor calls and didn’t play at our best, partly because of the horrendous conditions and partly because of the injury count.

“On the day Hove were much the better side, playing the conditions far better than us, and we have to take it on the chin.”

Chichester remain in a solid second place in the table.

CHICHESTER: Shopland, Gray, Davies, Taggart, Wright, Kasujja, Goldie, Davies, Toone, Adams, Luxton, Bentall, Jackson, Seaman, Golds. Reps: Corrigan, Grace, Bond.

Chichester have no game scheduled now until January 5, when they host Havant.