Chichester gave one of their best performances in soundly beating their old Sussex rivals East Grinstead 23-6 to leap above them in the National three London and south east table by scoring four tries and a penalty to two penalties.
Their success was based on their forwards with a solid front five and an outstanding back row who were aggressive in attack and deadly in the tackle.
With well-organised defence, the whole team outplayed their opponents in the second half. The Blues gained control and scored three tries in 20 minutes.
EGs pressed hard for a consolation but were unable to penetrate. A well-deserved bonus point moved Chi above them to fourth place in the league.
The visitors had aimed for the bonus-point win but returned empty-handed and with several problems to solve to maintain a promotion bid.
Chi welcomed back lock Phil Dickin after a lengthy injury and Ben Robson was on the bench. It was bright but cold and a difficult wind was blowing at the kick-off.
Chi started well with Jack Bentall receiving and fly-half Alex Marsh kicking long to touch.
They went to EG’s 22 and pinned them there for 12 minutes. The defenders showed poor discipline conceding penalties, three kicked into the right corner with no reward, but the next was slotted through the uprights by Marsh for a 3-0 lead.
The referee talked severely to the captains to cool tempers. EGs finally escaped and Prescott missed a penalty from nearly 40 metres.
Their right winger nearly made it into the corner but was bundled out. The Chi scrum was penalised and Prescott levelled.
Another long-range effort drifted wide and Chi absorbed two attempts by the EG backs to breach but the defence stood firm.
At the other end, Chi’s driving maul was held just short of the try line. Two five-metre scrums followed with Chi winning the second against the head to launch the backs across left and right.
Inside-centre Kieran Mudd stood up to his opponent, stepped inside and crashed over for the first try. It wasn’t a day for conversions from wide out.
Gs threatened again but Chi knocked them back. Hooker Joe Shopland was sin-binned for a no-arms tackle which was effective but ruled illegal.
Prescott kicked his second penalty to make it 8-6.
Just before the break, No8 Chris Johnson delighted home supporters with a trademark bullocking run and giant hand-off which put a surprised tackler on his backside. Tom Belcher ran on as front row replacement and Chi had 14 men until five minutes after half-time.
Chi had dealt with threats and the pack were ready to assert themselves and provide quick ball to their elusive half-backs Ed Durkin and Marsh.
The Blues were probing and forcing penalties which were despatched into touch for good position.
Bentall and Johnson surged forward and from a lineout Chi attacked on the narrow side. Phil Veltom scooped the ball and the big man charged 25m along the touchline, brushing aside tacklers and scoring in some style at the left corner.
Replacement fly-half Meakin was yellow-carded for holding on after a tackle and Chi turned the screw. A driving maul saw the ball spun out, Durkin and Marsh worked a half break and a pass was taken by right winger Rory Tanner.
His offload to opposite winger Tom Jackson, up in support, allowed him to twist and dive across to extend the lead to 18-6.
EGs were up against it when No8 Clayton was binned for a ruck offence as they tried desperately to cope with a man down. Chi backs were enjoying their possession and the ball was sent across to reach speedster Tanner, who cleverly swayed inside and went over.
The bonus point had been well earned and EGs were never going to close the gap – but they applied pressure in the last 15 minutes looking for consolation.
Flanker Denbee tried several times to break through from the back of scrums and rucks but he was foiled by the best No6 in this league, Ben Polhill.
EG full-back Betty did his best with skilful footwork running from the rear but Chi refused to let anyone score, although Meakin got within a metre.
Chi lost Dickin to a yellow card at a lineout but they were resolute and the whistle brought down the curtain on a great display which had entertained a very large, appreciative crowd.
Blues director of rugby Paul Colley said it was their best performance for a long time. “We kept our discipline, tackled well and showed great team spirit in shutting out any EGs comeback in the second half. The tries were well-worked and finished.”
CHICHESTER: Dowding, Shopland, Veltom, Reid, Dickin, Polhill, Bentall, Johnson, Durkin, Marsh, Jackson, Mudd, Lowe, Tanner, Adams, Belcher, Lindsay, Robson.
This week, Chi travel to Tring, who drew 37-37 at Oaklands earlier in the campaign. All support is welcome and there’s room on the coach.