Chichester’s promotion hopes are over at Dover - in the cruellest way

Chichester stop a break from Dover
Chichester stop a break from Dover

Chichester did all they could to finish in second place in London one south the league and gained a bonus-point 29-15 win in a hard, physical game against fifth-placed Dover.

But they suffered disappointment for the third year in a row when the grim news arrived that Basingstoke had fought back in the second half to draw 17-17 away to champions East Grinstead.

The Blues had the same total 109 league points as their Hampshire rivals but were edged out on points difference. It has been a record season with 22 wins out of 26 and they scored 130 tries in a total 857 points.

In their past three seasons their wonderful record is just 14 defeats in 77 games. Coaches and players can be very proud of their success and supporters have enjoyed many fine performances.

Although props Phil Veltom and Nick Shopland are retiring from the first XV after great contributions, the hope is that most of the squad will be available for selection next season and the club will continue to prosper in London one south.

They were at full strength and took the lead in two minutes. Quick lineout ball led to the ball being spun across the backs for Sam Renwick to give winger Toby Golds an easy run to score, Richard Adams converting.

Dover were lively and fly-half Phillips kicked well for territory. From a scrum, their experienced pack tried pick and go to win a penalty for not rolling away at the ruck. Phillips slotted the three points.

Chris Johnson had a first knees-up run and Adams kicked to touch in a promising move. But the ball was lost in the tackle and Dover’s pack drove to put pressure on the Chi 22.

With their gnarled front row, good lineout jumpers and ball-winning flanker Foster, they looked very competitive.

Chichester had been too hurried in their movements, resulting in errors, but they settled after three penalties, lineouts and drives finally broke the Dover defence for Niall Goldie to touch down. Adams kicked a splendid conversion from wide out to make it 14-3.

Dover hit back with some phases and took full advantage when their half-backs were not closed down. They sent their winger over for a try which was converted.

Johnson broke away twice but errors spoiled things. Dover’s outside centre was sin-binned for obstructing a Billy Toone tap penalty and Chichester opted twice for scrums in front of the posts when Dover infringed. Both scrums were lost.

Adams made a long run to the right wing and nearly made it but he lost the ball in a last-ditch tackle. Half-time had ther scoreboard showing 14-10.

Chi attacked with Jack Bentall driving into contact and Toone and full-back Tim Cook joining in. Adams made a break and a long pass put Golds on his way towards the right corner before being forced out and stretching a hamstring.

Replacements Shopland, Ben Polhill and Henry Anscombe came on. Dover were still dangerous and winning turnovers, No8 Tonks driving regularly over the gain line from rucks.

The tackling by both teams was fierce and there was a scrap for every metre. The Dover full-back made good clearances and made his own impressive run down the right.

Then came a stroke of genius when Adams fielded a Dover clearance in midfield. He accelerated away from first attempts to stop him, swerved past more and finally scythed through to score the solo try of the season near the corner. He nearly repeated the magic a few minutes later.

Dover’s open side flanker received a yellow card before Bentall vainly tried crash ball, then Johnson threw a great pass to Tom Jackson, who unluckily put his foot on the touchline as he went to the flag.

With ten minutes left and Dover remaining determined in defence and alert for a counter-attack, Chi succeeded. A ruck hard won by the forwards put the ball in Adams’ hands. He made the necessary break and Anscombe passed outside to Jackson to sprint outside the full-back and dive triumphantly across for the fourth try and bonus point.

Chi held their position with the match won but in the last play Dover got a deserved consolation with a try from corner lineout and drive.It was a job well done - then came Heartbreak Hotel.

Basingstoke now look forward to a play-off for promotion against Eton Manor from Essex.

CHICHESTER: Wheeler, Gray, Veltom, Blount, Lindsay, Johnson, Goldie, Kasujja, Toone, Adams, Golds, Bentall, Renwick, Jackson, Cook. Reps: Shopland, Polhill, Anscombe.