Oaks felled as Blues make strong start

Chris Johnson drives forward in Chichester's win over Sevenoaks / Picture by Kate Shemilt
Chris Johnson drives forward in Chichester's win over Sevenoaks / Picture by Kate Shemilt

Chichester made a very satisfactory start to the new London one south season against a competitive Sevenoaks team, winning 28-10.

They had the upper hand for the majority of the game and deserved their bonus point with four tries, two penalties and a conversion to the visitors’ try, conversion and penalty.

It was an open running encounter, controlled perfectly by the referee on a sunny and warm afternoon on a firm pitch. A pleasing feature was the discipline which made a welcome low penalty count.

The Blues gave first-team debuts to young young players. Tom Hutchin was full-back, Jamie Wilcock outside-centre and Eddie Hillyer a backs replacement on the bench.

Scrum-half Henry Anscombe kicked off but Chi lost possession and Oaks attacked. They gained a penalty for a rather high tackle and fly half Barker put the first points on the scoreboard.

Chi replied with Chris Johnson driving close to the try line. A penalty to the right corner, lineout won and snappy passes across the backs gave space for Nat Jackson to score at the right corner. It was 5-3 after a missed conversion.

It was a solid start to the league season. Sevenoaks were a decent side and certainly tested us so it was good to get the bonus-point win, but we know there is lots to improve on.

Paul Colley

Oaks probed but were met by strong tackles, especially from flanker Charlie Wallace. Anscombe succeeded with a huge penalty from just over the halfway line to make it 8-3.

Play was even for a while with both teams sharing possession from the tight. The backs sought a gap and inside-centre Jack Bentall ran hard but needed a quicker pass to break through. Oaks backs also handled competently but the line was a bit flat.

Chi drove well from a lineout before the ball was switched from right to left. Another lineout and drive saw the unstoppable Johnson plunging over near the left corner. The conversion was missed but it was 13-3 after 30 minutes.

Oaks came back with pressure and their full-back took advantage of a poor Chi kick to charge forward on a scything run into the home 22. Hooker Jack Arden-Brown and Johnson were in action just before the break but a penalty was conceded and Oaks cleared to touch.

It was clear Chi would need to concentrate and minimise mistakes to protect their lead. The visitors were not yet beaten and were well organised.

Oaks restarted and applied pressure. From a lineout and drive, left winger Short came on an angled run to collect a quick pass and cross just left of the posts. It was converted by Barker – 13-10.

Chi stepped up and went to work. The front row were tough, locks Nick Blount and Martin O’Callaghan kept their opposite numbers at bay and Aaron Davies and Wallace won good lineout ball. Anscombe sent a big kick to Vultures’ Corner for the forwards to maul.

Fly-half Richard Adams sent a measured high kick to the right wing and Jackson caught tidily to score his second try –18-10.

Oaks tried again and Hutchin made a try-saving tackle from behind and around the legs. Blues used their bench men wisely in rotation and Joe Woods, Ed Grinstead and Hillyer played their part.

The outcome was made fairly safe when Anscombe kicked a comfortable penalty from 25 metres for a 21-10 lead.

The final nail in the Oaks coffin was a thing of real beauty. Johnson made a break and the ball was whipped across to left winger Ben Robson. He raced along the touchline, coped with a tackle and offloaded. Five players handled with inside and outside passes which made supporters dizzy before Bentall had the honour of scoring a superb try. Anscombe converted to round off an exciting finale to an entertaining contest.

Paul Colley, director of rugby, said: “It was a solid start to the league season. Sevenoaks were a decent side and certainly tested us so it was good to get the bonus-point win, but we know there is lots to improve on.

“Scott (Ashley) and the coaching staff will be working hard to improve on this as we head to face what looks like a very strong Tottonians side at the weekend.”

Chi face great challenges in their next four matches against leading teams from last season in this league. They’re at Tottonians, on the western side of Southampton, on Saturday. All support is welcome for the 3pm kick-off.

Chichester: Deavall, Arden-Brown, Belcher, O’Callaghan, Blount, Davies, Wallace, Johnson, Anscombe, Adams, Jackson, Bentall, Wilcock, Robson, Hutchin. Reps: Woods, Grinsted, Hillyer.

ROGER GOULD

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