Rugby: Sidcup’s home record doesn’t faze leaders Chichester

Sidcup 5 Chichester 17

It was the first time they had won on Sidcup soil and in doing so, they ended a long unbeaten home record.

Their pack overcame a tough and spirited defence in the second half through their muscular driving and rucking techniques.

Possession was regularly gained and retained, aided by Sidcup ruck infringements which cost them penalties at the breakdown.

This was a determined and efficient performance which means Sidcup’s outside promotion chance is over and Chichester lead the table by five points – but with more big contests to come.

See the latest league table here

On a good pitch but in a blustery crosswind, Chichester had Chris Wagstaff at scrum-half replacing Billy Toone. Both sides tried a couple of runs in the backs but early mistakes and a crunching Ben Polhill tackle as he covered across ceased progress.

Jamie Knowles recovered a difficult high kick before Chichester drove towards the Sidcup 22. A penalty given for offside, Pearham surprisingly went for the corner instead of three points. Chichester promptly lost their lineout.

A turnover stopped them again in the centre and another penalty to the left corner had the same result.

It was Sidcup’s turn to threaten in their back-line and winning two penalties, they went into the corner. A lineout and drive was resisted at first but Kiwi No8 Julian Poff peeled off the back and used his strength to hold off the tackle and dive over. Hardy just missed a challenging conversion.

Sidcup had the edge but Chichester’s drift defence seemed to confuse them. Chichester seized a Sidcup lineout throw and the ball was spun out, but a knock-on intervened.

Full-back Knowles received another kick under pressure, bravely picking up and evading destruction. Sidcup’s jumpers had done well but they lost a second throw of their own and it was ominous. Sidcup centre Day made a fine break and his pass to the winger should have brought a try but Richard Adams forced him into touch.

The Blues drove forward with Phil Veltom and Scott Barlow taking the ball on. Adams supported and chipped over the top, winning a scrum.

Jack Taggart picked and carried but the Sidcup hooker held on to the ball at the ruck and was sin-binned. Pearham kicked the penalty awarded.

At half-time, 5-3 down, the Blues reviewed their tactics.

The wind increased and kicks were a bit of a lottery. Sidcup charged one down by Pearham and again were dangerous with Day and Roddis finding space. But they conceded a penalty in a good position and this was a trend.

Two more infringements set up kicks and Chichester were back in the right corner. The lineout was quickly caught by Barlow and a flick pass sent Moses Kasujja flying 15 metres along the touchline like a bat from hell.

No-one laid a hand on him and he rounded to touch down for a clinically-taken try. Pearham landed a fine conversion, the ball just drifting in with the wind.

Chichester’s kicks down-field were unproductive but the forwards were wearing down their opponents and dominating possession.

Nick Shopland delighted Chichester supporters by breaking from a maul and knocking over tacklers in a useful gallop. The referee penalised the home team once more and Chichester’s driving maul took them to the try line but were held up.

There was five minutes of continual Blues pressure near the line, Sidcup defending heroically with strong tackling at close quarters. But Chichester would not be denied and with excellent ball retention and pick and go, they inched forward and Barlow was able to use his big frame to crash over. Pearham slotted the conversion to make it 17-5.

Chichester had ten minutes left to keep the ball but Sidcup did have another attack and Kasujja had to make a solid tackle. There was just time for the visitors to win two more penalties and practise some concerted driving.

Coach Richard Isaac said: “Our preparation and attitude for this vital match was good. We stuck to our game plan, were persistent and kept our discipline despite making mistakes.”

This week Chichester are on the road again – at Sutton and Epsom.

CHICHESTER: Shopland, Lawrence, Veltom, Barlow, Blount, Kasujja, B Polhill, Taggart, Wagstaff, Pearham, Adams, Satala, Deed, Golds, Knowles, Wheeler, O’Callaghan.

ROGER GOULD