An injury-hit Chichester battled gamely at Tonbridge before slipping to a 44-19 National three London south east defeat.
The injuries had hampered preparation and several other key players were unavaible.
TJs always present a tough challenge and this was no different. They have pulled in several of the former East Grinstead outfit including their backs coach, the former Irish international Justin Bishop.
For Chi, Danny Gray played his first game of the season and Ski Sauliga played his first game for several years having been a regular for the Blues before their promotion to the National League.
TJs had a huge pack and very powerful backs. Chi kicked off with a beautiful hanging kick from Henry Anscombe but the Blues let TJs off the hook with a missed tackle and they made early ground.
The home side had a solid lineout thanks to two massive jumpers and Chi struggled to find any platform from the lineout.
This piled on the pressure and only a couple of very big hits from Sauliga kept the Reds at bay. The pressure told though with Prescott slotting an early penalty for TJs.
Sauliga rallied the blues with several big carries and Gray moved the ball well. The Blues put together exciting phases but the final ball went to ground or the wrong option undid the attack.
After 20 minutes TJs stretched the away defence and their centre ghosted away from the despairing Blues prop to score a try.
The Blues rang the changes and for the last ten minutes of the half they defended bravely with MoM Jon Lindsay putting in a couple of massive defensive tackles.
Lumbard stepped up with a couple of crucial turnovers. Prescott landed another penalty to make it 11-0.
A seriously-late tackle on Jack Maslen saw him leave the field injured, not to return.
TJs upped the pace after the break and started to get on the front foot – their powerful backs were starting to look dangerous and Prescott kicked well to the corners.
Richard Adams retrieved well several times but the pressure kept coming. A red try out wide pushed TJs 16-0 ahead.
The Blues rallied with several excellent carries and timed passes, with big Don Farmer breaking the gain line.
Young prop Ben Deavall scored an excellent try down the middle to make it 16-7.
The home side went up the gears and in a 20-minute period they had total domination. Their No12 was a quality player, scoring one and having a hand in two others as the Reds went 37-7 up helped by another Prescott penalty.
Another wave of attacking led to a further try and a hammering looked on the cards.
But as the Blues regrouped the Chichester spirit was epitomised by Deavall, who against a much bigger and more experienced opponent, really started to get on top in the scrum.
This never-say-die attitude seemed to spread across the team with Lindsay and Blount throwing everything into the contact zone.
Sauliga kept hitting hard lines and Adams and Matthew Woodhouse almost got away from the hosts’ strong defence.
With ten minutes to go the Blues won that all-important lineout with a great drive and excellent shift of the ball. Jak Evans, with a little front-foot ball, smashed his opposite number out of the way to score a well-deserved try.
The Blues were playing for the shirt and upped the level. Great interplay between Gray and Adams, who showed his pace by gassing Prescott on the outside, led to two more phases and Sauliga rounded the game off with a 20m surge, bumping off the last defender to dive into the corner. Evans struck his first kick of the day to land the very difficult conversion and make it 44-19.
CRFC director of rugby Paul Colley said: “I’m very proud – we showed massive heart and commitment with lots of challenges. The guys who pulled on the shirt did themselves and their club proud.”
Chichester: Deavall, Woodworth, Vadei, Blount, O’Callaghan, Lindsay, Lumbard, Sauliga, Evans, Anscombe, Woodhouse, Gray, Maslen, Miller, Adams. Reps: Gingell, Farmer, Blewitt.
* This Saturday’s game is massive as Chi, in 12th, take on 11th-placed Westcliffe at home. Huge support is needed – the club urge local fans to get along to the new Oaklands Pavilion and cheer on the boys.
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