A first visit for Chichester to Amersham and Chiltern brought another nail-biting finish to a close and hard-fought game – and an 18-16 victory for the Blues to keep them flying high in National three London south east.
They came away with their fourth success from five away matches, the winning drop goal scored in the last five minutes.
Chichester had found it difficult despite having much more of possession and territory. They were checked by consistent firm tackling and made many mistakes,but they stuck to the task and finally emerged with the four league points.
Chi are fifth and have done better than expected so far but any advancement will demand specific improvements and the squad are well aware.
The pitch was soft after rain on a gloomy afternoon with heavy cloud cover.
The Blues welcomed new recruit Ken Dowding at loosehead prop and Tom Polhill had his first start at inside centre. Danny Gray was at fly half with Richey Adams moving to full-back. Ed Durkin replaced the injured Billy Toone at scrum-half and Jack Bentall returned to No8 with Aaron Davies switching to lock.
The hosts were anxious to cease a six-match losing run following a good start to the season.
Chi kicked off and began a lengthy period of pressure. Tom Jackson and Chris Johnson were brought down in full flight and two penalties failed, one just short, the other drifting wide.
An attack to the left was promising with a slick offload by Nick Blount and a run by Aaron Lowe which brought a third penalty award, also missed. A Durkin thrust was stopped dead and Chi failed to deal with a fast counter-attack along the left wing.
Chiltern exploited space and two attackers combined well to beat poor tackles and a try was scored at the corner. They also kicked a penalty against the run of play to lead 8-0.
Ben Polhill and Bentall ran strongly and Johnson showed his power on the charge but two penalties were conceded. Hooker Joe Shopland made a superb break and gave a good pass to Bentall, who was nailed by a solid last-ditch tackle.
Chiltern were under the cosh but Chi lacked the control to make it count. At last they cracked it when the backs moved the ball right and from a ruck, Durkin sent the ball out to winger Tom Jackson to sprint over fom 15 metres, beating a tackle.
Just before the break, Chiltern won a penalty to touch followed by a clean take at the lineout. Their fly-half kicked high and accurately to the right winger and a scrambling defence was unable to prevent another corner try. A 13-5 margin for Chiltern was down to them taking their two chances.
The Blues benefitted from their half-time lecture and immediately prop Tom Belcher broke through at pace. He was stopped but a penalty was won at the ruck two metres out. Davies took a very quick tap penalty and dived across, too big to be denied. It was converted by Gray to leave Chi only 13-12 down.
They continued their attacks with the forwards now on top in scrums and rucks but Chiltern resisting the driving mauls with a well-organised and impressive defence.
Sam Renwick raced through in the centre and nearly made it but a backs move ended with a knock-on. It didn’t help when the scrum began to be penalised and territory lost.
Gray attempted an ambitious 45m penalty which fell five metres short. However they pushed the Chiltern scrum back and won a penalty which Gray landed. Chi were now in front at 15-13.
But there was the constant threat of a counter with the Chiltern fly-half having good vision to spot vacant space. Another setback came when Johnson drove hard but he was unlucky to be penalised at the breakdown.
The Chiltern full-back kicked a great penalty from the touchline to put Chi 16-15 behind, and with the clock running down and it was getting dark in more ways than one.
Adams was forced out on the left but Chi gained the ball from the lineout and the ball was moved to the middle for a maul with Gray standing in the pocket. His drop goal skimmed over the bar as several hearts missed a beat – 18-16.
With two minutes of injury time left, Chiltern strove to get to the Chi 22 from two scrums but they failed, much to the relief of the Chi supporters. Chiltern deserved their losing bonus point for all their effort on the back foot and their sportsmanship as Chi left the field.
A rest this week is followed on December 6 by a tussle with second-placed Bury St Edmunds at Oaklands Park (2.15pm). Chi will need to be on top form and all support would be very welcome. Come early and enjoy the pre-match chat and a drink.
CHICHESTER: Dowding, Shopland, Belcher, Blount, Davies, B Polhill, Johnson, Bentall, Durkin, Gray, Driscoll, T Polhill, Lowe, Jackson, Adams, Giddings, Lindsay, Renwick.