Rugby: Chichester run into a Ton of trouble

Jack Maslen on his way to scoring on his Chi debut / Picture by Michael Clayden
Jack Maslen on his way to scoring on his Chi debut / Picture by Michael Clayden

IT IS rare that a home team scores 19 points in the first 15 minutes but finally concedes 33 points without reply, but that is precisely what happened when Chichester entertained tonbridge Juddians in their National three London south-east opener.

This was an extraordinary opening to the new season with supporters delighted for half an hour, then suffering disappointment.

TJs’ large pack took over, creating a solid platform and forcing successful penalties in the second half. The margin was four tries, two conversions and three penalties to three tries and two conversions.

The Chichester backs showed great promise with their pace and the forwards drove well with improved discipline in the rucks. But they were outmuscled in the scrums and their lineout was inconsistent.

The Blues had Charlie Wallace and Alex Taylor making debuts, new players Jack Maslen, Paddy MacEnri and Marius Greyvenstein involved and Billy Toone welcomed back to the bench.

Chi were quick out of the blocks and TJs were shocked by what hit them. Maslen intercepted on halfway and was hauled down just short of the corner. A scrum to Chi, a long pass by fly-half Danny Gray and outside centre Alex Marsh waltzed around the posts. He converted his own try and it was 7-0 after barely five minutes.

The Chichester backs showed great promise with their pace and the forwards drove well with improved discipline in the rucks. But they were outmuscled in the scrums and their lineout was inconsistent.

TJs tried to reply but were stopped by a strong tackle by captain Chris Johnson covering on the left. Chi attacked in force and from a corner lineout the pack drove powerfully for prop Ken Dowding to touch down. The conversion just missed.

Another five minutes of domination came before Maslen was sent on his way down the wing, executing a classic kick over the defence to gather the bounce and skate over behind the posts. Marsh converted and it was 19-0.

TJs stirred and play became more even, Gray and Dowding prominent in defence and going forward. The visitors defended stoutly in their 22 and ended some Chi phases with a smart turnover. An ominous sign was the Chi scrum starting to be pushed back.

TJs backs swept left from quick ball and found space. A grubber kick to the corner seemed to follow a knock-on but winger Ramsey went over to score at the flag.

On 35 minutes they overlapped against inaadequate cover and despite a last tackle, O’Sullivan was on hand to score at the same corner. This was followed soon by a penalty kicked by scrum half Zanirato. Things were changing rapidly.

Full-back Richard Adams went on a weaving run but ran into traffic. Another quick pass to Marsh gave a half breakbut from a five-metre scrum TJs wheeled and won it just before the whistle for the break. At 19-13 it was obvious that Blues would have to score next to stem the TJs’ momentum.

Chi restarted brightly and Adams made ground before running into a colleague. They won a scrum against the head and kicked to Vultures’ Corner. Wallace caught and delivered and the forwards mauled to the left corner. TJs collapsed the maul but there was no reaction by the referee.

Disaster followed when the ball was spun across and a pass was intercepted perfectly by outside centre Nichol who hared the length of the pitch to place the ball under the Chi posts. The conversion by Zanirato meant TJs were in the lead.

Chi lost a clear chance when a fast attack foundered with an overlap available outside. TJs took over and with solid rucking they launched their backs for a score at the right corner by winger Watson and conversion by fly-half Cooper. So TJs had their fourth try, a bonus point and a 27-19 lead.

Chi drove again to within five metres but were turned over. A knock-on in defence and Chi went back in the scrum to give TJs another penalty which was converted by Cooper.

Blues used their subs but the visitors turned the screw and Cooper kicked a final penalty to make it 33-19. Chi went hard for a losing bonus point but twice in Vultures’ Corner they lost lineouts.

They refused to give up and both sides showed their fitness over the 80 minutes. TJs were a strong and well-balanced squad who could prove a handful for most teams if they start quicker than they did in this game.

This week Chi travel to Guernsey and expect the usual test.

CHICHESTER: Dowding, Giddings, Greyvenstein, O’Callaghan, Dickin, Wallace, B Polhill, Johnson, Durkin, Gray, Maslen, T Polhill, Marsh, MacEnri, Adams, Belcher, Taylor, Toone.

ROGER GOULD

See how Chichester RFC fared when they attempted a word record for the Longest Pass

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