Chichester step up National League preparations

Some of the Chichester squad celebate promotion at the end of last season  now they're preparing for the next level   Picture by Chris Hatton
Some of the Chichester squad celebate promotion at the end of last season now they're preparing for the next level Picture by Chris Hatton

A competitive warm-up between newly-promoted Chichester and London one south outfit Sutton and Epsom consisted of four 25-minute sessions and the Blues used a total of 30 players - winning 34-5 at the end of a good workout.

As both the first and second XVs face tough league seasons, it was a good chance for the coaches to assess performances.

There were half a dozen new faces and all team positions were under review. Chi were without four of their pack from last season but they will appear in other friendlies.

Although this meant there was limited possession from the set scrums, Chi had enough flair around the pitch to win by six tries and two conversions to one try.

Sutton had most of the play in the first ten minutes but the home defence held and inside centre Kieran Mudd broke through to run 40 metres and almost bring a try.

Mistakes were made by both sides before wing forward Charlie Wallace sent out a lovely long pass to Mudd and the 18-year-old Welshman hit a good line to score under the posts. The conversion was put away by Henry Anscombe.

Chris Johnson broke out from the Chi 22 and his remarkable overhead pass found Richard Adams. The speedy full-back sprinted 45 metres along the left touchline and evaded tackles to round behind the posts. A conversion by Anscombe made it 14-0 at the end of session one.

Changes were made and Sutton pressed hard. Danny Kirkpatrick was busy at full-back but gathered and ran well. The visitors forced penalties and opted for scrums and cross-field running which gave them a deserved try.

Chi got going again and showed slick handling before being forced into touch ten metres out. A scrum followed and Sutton infringed. Scrum-half Billy Toone took a very quick tap penalty and his well-timed pass gave Wallace his chance to squeeze over at the right corner for 19-5.

The third session began with a typical powerful run by Johnson, smashing over tackles. Aaron Lowe, an ex-Hartpury and Barking player, made ground, passing to Mark Giddings, who ran impressively 35 metres, skipping past defenders and scoring the fourth try.

Errors continued and chances missed until Lowe put Nat Jackson on a jinking run. The attack broke down but Adams flew down the opposite wing and as the Sutton full-back tried a desperate last tackle, the ball was popped to Anscombe to finish off at the right corner flag.

Chi were in control in the last period but Sutton stuck to the task and continued to tackle hard and occasionally threaten in their back-line.

Chi had some sharp inter-passing and former Premiership player Danny Gray at fly-half showed his class with some arrowed passes to the centres.

Chi still found it difficult to adjust to the need for phased play to create clear chances but just before the end, winger Tom Jackson collected a pass to run in from 20 metres.

The Surrey men were grateful for the loan of experienced Chi prop Nick Shopland, who tried hard not to collide with his son Joe playing for Blues.

Blues director of rugby Paul Colley said it had been a useful afternoon for players and coaches.

Newcomers Antonio Velasco, a prop who has joined from Spain, Mudd, Wallace, Rhys Gillings and Joe Shopland especially caught the eye.

Supporters also noted newcomers Sam Pitchford, an ex-Worthing academy and Sussex under-20 player, and Peter Meakin, a lock forward who played rugby league at Loughborough University.