Chichester’s Blues were too strong for Brighton’s Blues, winning 27-7 in an eagerly-anticipated Sussex Trophy semi-final at Worthing RFC.
Brighton have had a very strong season and are one point off the play-off position in London two.
Chichester, having got back on track with a solid win over Haywards Heath, had to ring the changes because of injuries and unavailability.
Four players in particular answered the club’s call with Jack Smallman at 12 playing his first game of the season, Phil Dickin playing a vital role having been out for six months with a serious injury, George Ryle stepping up from his role as fitness coach to play on the right wing following a late withdrawal and Tom Lowe making an explosive return to No8 having missed much of the season.
Ben Polhill took over the captain’s reins with Scott Barlow another late withdrawal and he galvanised the side for a strong start.
Billy Toone went on one of his many lightning breaks flicking on to Lowe. The youngster smashed through two tackles and showed his speed to go on a 20m run. Quick ball set up Pearham for a cross-kick which the Whites cleared.
The Blues kept on coming, aided by incredible pace in the pack with Ski Sauliga and Mike Uta getting up in support of Polhill, Gray and Lowe.
After several powerful breaks Lowe and Veltom drove well over the gain line and Sauliga showed his power to smash over wide out. Pearham slotted the difficult extras.
Brighton eventually got some ball and looked to attack but didn’t get much joy with Smallman and Deed holding firm.
The white No8 carried strongly but Gray’s big tackles halted the drive. Even without specialist jumpers the Blues pressurised the white lineout and stole a couple of vital opposing throws.
With two penalties in quick succession and Brighton driving hard the Blues faced a massive scrum on their own line. Shopland exerted huge pressure on the home team’s tight-head and Polhill stopped a likely score.
Dickin replaced the injured Uta and made an immediate impact with excellent lineout takes, but following a good move in midfield the Brighton fly-half created indecision in the Chi defence to carve through for a score with extras added.
Polhill helped force the Whites on to the back foot and they conceded a penalty for holding on. Pearham hit the post.
Quick ball from Toone allowed Richard Adams to swerve past two tacklers and the ball moved through the hands. A quicker transfer would have released the powerful Ryle.
Pearham slotted his next chance to push the lead to 10-7.
Chichester end the half on top and a well-executed lineout saw Dickin burst on to the ball to score. Pearham again slotted the extras from the touchline to make it 17-7.
Brighton pushed the blues deep but met a wall of Blues defenders.
The Blues started the second period strongly with Lowe everywhere with aggressive tackling and excellent breaks, linking with the lively Toone.
Brighton threw everything at the away side but the Blues held them at bay and forced several turnovers.
Woods, now on at prop, gave the White front row a torrid time exerting massive pressure. Sauliga went on another powerful run, forcing a penalty which Pearham slotted to push out to 20-7.
The Blues moved the ball at pace with Adams jinking past several despairing tackles to go deep into the left corner.
The forwards recycled for Veltom to power over and with extras added it was 27-7.
The away side unleashed the rest of the bench with young Henry Anscombe and Danny Kirkpatrick highlighting the talent coming through the youth ranks.
The Blues finished by moving the ball at pace and threatening to score further tries.
Director of rugby Paul Colley said: “This was one of the most satisfying performances of the season – we had four second rows out and a host of other players unavailable for one reason or another.
“Brighton have invested heavily in their squad and we pulled together to put in a real team performance.”
Men of the match were Toone and Lowe.
Chichester will defend their Sussex Trophy against the winners of the East Grinstead-Haywards Heath clash in the final on Saturday, May 19 at Eastbourne RFC.
CHICHESTER: Shopland, Gingell, Veltom, Uta, Sauliga, Gray, Polhill, Lowe, Toone, Pearham, Golds, Smallman, Deed, Ryle, Adams, Woods, Lawrence, Corrigan, Goldie, Dickin, Anscombe, Kirkpatrick.