Plenty of excitement - but Blues miss out again

Chichester on the charge against Barnes in the autumn sunshine at Oaklands Park   Picture by Chris Hatton
Chichester on the charge against Barnes in the autumn sunshine at Oaklands Park Picture by Chris Hatton

It seems hardly credible that Chichester suffered the same misfortune in two consecutive home games. This time it brought a narrow 28-25 defeat to Barnes in National three London and south east - and only two bonus points when they should have had all five points.

Once again it was caused by their own mistakes in the second half. Just five minutes after the break they went into a 20-8 lead but 30 minutes later they had leaked 20 points to the efficient visitors who played to their strengths and took their chances.

It was sad for Chi players and supporters as the Blues had played some excellent attacking rugby which was great to watch. But in the National League you have to know how to defend and keep a commanding lead when opponents counter-attack and apply pressure.

Antonio Velasco was at loosehead prop, Aaron Davies replaced the injured Phil Dickin at lock, Jack Bentall moved to No8 and Toby Golds returned at full back.

Chi came out all guns blazing and in very determined mood. Attacks flowed with slick long passes by the backs and the ball was retained for several recycles. Lineout ball was caught cleanly by Davies, and Bentall, Aaron Lowe, Rory Tanner and Golds all ran hard to win territory.

For 15 minutes Barnes crossed halfway only twice.The first try came when Nick Blount kicked a loose ball towards the posts,and Barnes were forced to hack it to touch . The lineout was clockwork and the ball fizzed across the backs, the half break was made and Tanner finished at the right corner. A brilliant conversion by Richard Adams was to be his only conversion success.

Barnes advanced from lineout to the centre and won a penalty. kicked by full-back O’Toole. Chi were repelled near the try line before Bentall, Chris Johnson and Ben Polhill carried powerfully to force a penalty in front. Adams obliged.

From his own 22 Bentall handed off tackles and ran hard, drew the full-back and passed to Lowe, who sprinted over for the second try from 25 metres. Barnes were tackling hard and their scrum had the edge but they had not been in the game.

They began to ruck and drive. After a penalty, scrum and maul a try was scored at the right corner by scrum-half Reeves but it seemed to be disputed. After a conversation between Polhill and the referee, the latter confirmed his decision. Conversion missed.

A big tackle by Joe Shopland launched more good passing, this time by the forwards on the charge, and a penalty was earned but missed.

Barnes won a scrum against the head, spun it out to their backs from the lineout and Chi were penalised at the breakdown. The kick was missed, making it 15-8 at half-time.

Johnson carried strongly once more but Barnes cleared from a penalty. Driscoll took a pass and ran 25 metres and the offload reached Bentall. He stormed across the line to make it 20-8.

Soon it started to go wrong for Chi. Belcher, Johnson and Bentall had combined nicely to reach the 22 but a grubber kick was seized by the Barnes right-winger who tore along the touchline, was only half-stopped by a poor tackle and the attack was carried into the corner where there was a bit of a mess by last defence and inside centre Butler got over.

Another setback came when a high kick into the middle by Chi gave Barnes useful possession. They proceeded to win the ball aggressively at a subsequent ruck and the ball went through secure hands for Butler to get his second try. It was not converted but Barnes’ tails were up and Chi rattled at 20-18.

Driscoll and Golds ran together over halfway but Golds was accidentally clattered and was helped off the pitch, replaced by Harry Seaman.

Barnes took full advantage when Chi were penalised for not releasing. A tap penalty led to them moving the ball around both sides, finding a gap at the corner for replacement Scott-Bowen to touchdown for their fourth try and bonus point.

Chi were driving into the Barnes 22 with Davies in the vanguard when Barnes somehow kicked low and long, the ball bobbled and Chi were forced into touch. Three lineouts and driving mauls later, Barnes won a penalty which was slotted by O’Toole to make it 28-20 to them.

Chi refused to give up and went hard for the bonus points. Sam Renwick put Tanner on a run but he was tackled into touch.

In almost the last play, Bentall robbed a ball from the back of a Barnes lineout and sent a long pass out to an accelerating Seaman who dived over after a 30m gallop – meaning bonus points for a fourth try and for losing by seven points or fewer.

If they perform as well as they did in the first 40 minutes and eliminate serious mistakes, Chi will win more games.

This week, Chi go to Gravesend (2.30pm) against whom last season the Blues had two nail-biting games, both ending in home wins.

CHICHESTER: Velasco, J Shopland, Belcher, Davies, Blount, Polhill, Johnson, Bentall, Toone, Adams, Driscoll, Renwick, Lowe, Tanner, Golds, N Shopland, Gillings, Seaman.

ROGER GOULD