Chichester’s standards slip - but they’re still too good for Havant

Nick Blount on the chase for Chichester at Havant  Picture by Allan Hutchings C132520
Nick Blount on the chase for Chichester at Havant Picture by Allan Hutchings C132520

Although Chichester won 25-10 at Havant’s Hooks Lane thanks to three tries, two conversions and two penalties to a converted try and a penalty, it was a mediocre performance by their own high standards.

They dominated the London one south game but their finishing was poor - they should have scored at least three more tries. So a bonus point was missed against a Havant team who defended strongly but had very little possession to launch attacks.

Left winger Leon Driscoll and full-back Dean Morris made their debuts and Tim Cook moved to fly-half after Richard Adams failed a fitness test.

Tall lock Nick Blount caught the kick-off safely with the help of lifters and continued to catch well the whole game. The pack gave notice by driving forward but shortly after they gave away a penalty in the centre and just 25 metres out which was slotted by home full-back Reynolds.

Jack Bentall made the first thrust by the backs, who passed across field to Morris. He made ground before being checked. A penalty was awarded and Driscoll put it over confidently for 3-3.

Cook showed tricky footwork to get to halfway, followed by Sam Renwick making a big break in the centre. He sprinted towards the try line and with the full-back to beat opted for the long pass to left winger Rory Tanner, who needed to be nearer - and the chance was lost.

Havant received a yellow card for blocking a quick tap penalty. Cook, Niall Goldie, Tom Belcher and Driscoll were in a brisk raid and Havant were penalised for holding on the ground. Driscoll made it 6-3.

Havant went on only their second attack and spoilt Chi’s ball from the lineout but the Blues covered without alarm.

Rotation of substitutes began, Joe Woods and Aaron Davies coming on. Hooker Mark Giddings was forced into touch after a promising run.

Billy Toone got the backs going again and Morris chipped ahead but was blocked. Havant lost a lineout in their left corner, Chi were given a scrum and the pack rolled across for No8 Chris Johnson to touch down.It was well-converted by Driscoll.

Bentall made a half-break and a pass to Johnson but the ball was lost. A Havant penalty, lineout and ruck resulted in a Blues infringement but in a case of mistaken identity, Johnson was yellow-carded and left the field - somewhat amazed.

In the final action of an error-ridden half, a Havant penalty drifted wide and Chi were nearly caught out by a player following up. At half-time, it was 13-3.

Tanner caught a high ball in defence and made progress but Chi were again penalised at the ruck. Out of the blue, Chi received a shock. From good lineout ball, inside centre Knight made a dazzling break and beat three tackles with a swerving 40m run to go over just left of the posts.

Reynolds converted and it was 13-10.

Chi moved the ball out once more but a knock-on and a dropped ball spoilt things. Ed Durkin was sharp at scrum-half and from a scrum, Johnson carried and offloaded to Bentall to feed Renwick, who went through a gap and strode across for a well-worked try. The conversion by Driscoll made it 20-10.

Chi were playing better but a tendency to elaborate was letting them down. The backs ran out of space on the wings and needed shorter passes to draw the defence and bring an overlap.

Havant made it difficult with competent covering and robust tackling. They had another man dismissed for ten minutes. Once more, good hands by Chi backs saw Driscoll forced out.

Johnson, Bentall and prop Tom Belcher each tried to punch through from Durkin feeds without result.

In the last minutes Chi were camped well in the 22 when a comedy of errors occurred. Havant dropped the ball on their line, Cook picked up but failed to get over, then Bentall knocked on two metres out from a Johnson pass.

Finally,Chi won a five-metre scrum against the head and shunted Havant back, Johnson getting his second touchdown.

Thinking there was time left for a quick bonus try, Driscoll’s easy conversion kick turned into a failed drop kick. The final whistle blew to avoid any more disappointment.

Chi took four points but will feel slightly disappointed. Havant did their best but should have done better after Knight’s try and, on this showing, may struggle again this season.

On Saturday the Blues host a second straight home Sussex derby - Hove are the visitors (3pm) - do come and support.

CHICHESTER: Wheeler, Giddings, Belcher, Blount, Grace, Goldie, Dickin, Johnson, Toone, Cook, Driscoll, Bentall, Renwick, Tanner, Morris. Reps: Woods, Davies, Durkin.

ROGER GOULD