London Irish Amateurs are too strong for Chichester

Jack Maslen bursts through two tackles / Picture by Kate Shemilt
Jack Maslen bursts through two tackles / Picture by Kate Shemilt
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It was predictable that the table-topping London Irish Amateurs would win at Chichester, their first success at Oaklands Park in four attempts over the years.

They were too strong for Chichester, winning 29-7, but were greatly helped by Chi having to play with only 14 men for 65 minutes.

The visitors’ scrum held the whip hand and they also seized on some defensive lapses to score three tries and a penalty in the first half.

The Blues played with great heart after that and had the better of it, scoring one try and being denied another which would have been deserved.

A bonus point was the reward for Irish who finally won the National three London south east tussle by four tries, three conversions and a penalty to a converted try.

Ben Polhill was at blindside flanker, Richard Adams moved to fly-half and Alex Marsh replaced him at full-back. Jack Bentall was welcomed back to the bench.

Irish had been well drilled and clinical but if they had relaxed after the bonus it did not seem like it – and Chi can be pleased that they came back in adversity.

The pitch was soft and the sun was in their eyes as Chi kicked off. They won their first lineout and drove on to get a scrum put-in. They were promptly shunted backwards and this became regular.

The Irish maul drove 20 metres and set up a backs move which was butchered by a pass which missed the overlapping winger.

Their backs elaborated with a chance in the centre and Tom Jackson was able to intervene. A third maul went to five metres from the line but was brought down and penalty awarded. The referee yellow-carded prop Phil Veltom, which seemed a bit harsh as it was the first maul offence and the decision had dire results for the home side.

Joe Woods was the front-row replacement and Chi had to lose a back. Full-back Turner kicked the three points.

Chi attacked and centre Rhys Thompson was quickly on to a kick ahead but was high tackled. The penalty was missed.

Forwards and backs combined with handling across the pitch but a swift counter-attack had to be foiled by a brilliant fall and scoop by Marsh.

A promising backs move ended with a a bad pass which experienced Irish left winger Owen seized upon to speed down the touchline, evade a tackle and go around the posts. It was converted.

Soon after Irish ran back a high kick and exposed Chi’s defence on the right, and quick hands and a dummy and offload put winger Killeeen across, five metres in from the corner. Another conversion made it 17-0 to Irish.

Fourteen points had been conceded before Veltom ran back on. Five minutes later he carried strongly before he went to ground with a tackler. When rolling over he was penalised for what the referee deemed was a deliberate elbow on his opponent. A second yellow and a red card was the result.

Despite the setback, Chi had several good minutes and the backs threatened. Jack Maslen ran hard and with a half break and pass outside to Dean Bonds to go close.

Then a terrific break by Thompson won a penalty to the left corner. The lineout was working well with accurate throwing by Sean Shepherd and catches by either Aaron Davies or Ed Bowden – but this time Irish defended to win the ball back.

They returned to the Chi 22, drove and scrummed with passes round the corner for centre Richards to score. Turner converted for his third time. Irish were 24-0 up at the break and Chi were facing a very big defeat.

Instead, they played with commendable determination and actually won the next 40 minutes 7-5.

They attacked with an Adams penalty to Vultures’ corner and pressed hard, the ball going both ways with the backs and lock Davies tackled just short of the line.

Once again Irish countered with a drive and penalty to touch. The ball was sent out and well-timed passes plus a failure of Chi’s drift defence allowed space for the bonus-point try by Gott at the right flag.

Chris Johnson, as usual, led a spirited reply with bullocking runs through tackles and his offload to Paddy MacEnri nearly brought reward but he was well tackled into touch.

Chi had no luck at all with Thompson, Bowden and Davies all getting injured. Adams, Jack Bentall, Shepherd and Woods featured as Chi went to Vultures again and a driving maul was brought down but there was no yellow card for Irish.

The Blues would not give up and after more pressure Harry Seaman took a quick tap penalty and hurtled over for their consolation try, converted by Adams.

Irish had been well drilled and clinical but if they had relaxed after the bonus it did not seem like it – and Chi can be pleased that they came back in adversity.

This week Chi travel to Gravesend. They must win that game and the following one at Eton Manor. All support welcome.

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

ROGER GOULD

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