CHICHESTER gave their best away performance of the season in this comprehensive 51-13 victory over their fifth-placed opponents Beckenham.
They were on top form and after the first 15 minutes were totally dominant. The bonus point was earned after 38 minutes and the final margin was eight tries, four conversions and a penalty to one converted try and two penalties.
The hosts were unable to cope with the strength and skill of the Blues forwards, especially their lineout catching and driving which brought three of the tries.
The backs also showed good hands in some sweeping moves following quick ball. Chichester have now scored 96 tries in 22 games and their defence remains the best in the league. But London Irish are still one point ahead of them after their narrow win at Sutton and Epsom.
The game started 30 minutes late after their coach (vehicle, not Colley or Isaac) broke down half way to Beckenham and players and supporters had to be rescued.
Chichester were without Billy Toone, Ross Fairbairn and Ben Polhill but good replacements came in. Beckenham began brightly enough and their fly-half made a half break and won a penalty which went over to take the lead.
At the other end Jack Smallman and Toby Golds chased a kick ahead to the right corner but seemed to be deliberately obstructed by a Beckenham centre, who was sin binned.
From the five-metre scrum, Chichester drove over for hooker Rob Lawrence to touch down.
Eddie Armah was tackled out after his first run,but the dangerous Smallman made a big break and the pack carried it forward.
Jack Walker and Richard Adams whipped the ball across and winger Steve McCluskey cleverly evaded the cover to run around for a try behind the posts. Adams added the extras with the first of his conversions. 12-3.
The referee made it clear what would not be tolerated in the scrums and he was consistent in penalising both sides for not listening to him.
Adams was sparking and he kicked long to the corner again. At the line-out the catch and drive was perfect and Lawrence got his second try followed by conversion.
Nick Shopland was snapping around the fringes and Andy Gray and his fellow back rowers were standing firm.
Beckenham reached the Chichester 22 and kicked a penalty for handling in the ruck, but Blues responded with Lawrence leading a charge and Tom Polhill held up just short in the centre.
Adams slotted a penalty after Smallman had been knocked back by an offside tackle.
The fourth try was a beauty. A well-judged kick to the wing by Adams was collected by Golds coming from deep. He exchanged passes at pace with McCluskey and galloped to the right corner, scoring with a modest swallow drive.
At half-time it was 27-6 to Chichesterm, and they were physically in command. The scrums were secure and the outlook promising. A few attempts to gain territory by Beckenham had been repelled with tackles or turnovers.
Lawrence, Blount and Golds combined to force another penalty. Moments later a Lawrence got his hat-trick and 19th try this season. Increasing pressure stretched the Beckenham defence and their tight-head prop was shown a yellow card.
With Lawrence rested, the next lineout and drive was finished off by the unstoppable Phil Veltom from 10 metres out, which was converted for a 39-6 lead.
Beckenham’s full-back tried very hard to start a revival with two strong runs but possession was lost .
Chichester won a scrum against the head and Johnson broke through for 40 metres. He offloaded to supporting backs who shipped the ball right and then left before Blount found himself in the centre and able to score the seventh try, again converted.
Barlow was a fiercesome sight storming forward with high stride and there was a buzz of high energy everywhere, the most since the great win over London Irish.
Blount got his second and Chichester’s last try on the end of a phased attack which saw the tall lock stretching across the line.
In the last minutes Beckenham took advantage of a poor Chi clearance and after recycling they moved the ball to the right to score a consolation try, which was converted. The whistle blew at 51-13.
Chichester’s director of rugby Paul Colley said: “It was a very fine performance by all our players.We put them on the back foot from early on and never let up. Scott Barlow was awesome.
“But we are keeping our feet on the ground. The ball is in the London Irish court to win the play-off place by winning their remaining games with maximum points.”
Next up Chichester face a home clash against Thanet Wanderers (3pm), who were the last team to beat Chichester (16-14) last November.
CHICHESTER: Shopland, Lawrence Veltom, Blount, Barlow, Johnson, Gray, Kasujja, Walker, Adams, Armah, Polhill, Smallman, McCluskey, Golds, Decoteau, Lindsay, Mitchell.