Chichester took a losing bonus from a 31-26 defeat away to London Cornish - but came away rueing not having won.
It was a cracking game in which the lead changed hands five times and they were two very well matched teams who fought a hard physical battle.
Chichester could have won it but mistakes gifted Cornish two tries and a wrong option lost the Blues a winning score with a few minutes left. It’s a must-win game for Chi this Saturday (2.30pm) at home to Chobham, who are bottom but one.
Chichester made nine changes. Richard Ives, Joe Woods, Ryan Boulton, Martin O’Callaghan and Declan Johnson came into the pack, with Gareth Davies, Sam Renwick, Matt McLagan and Tom Blewitt in the backs.
Chi soon had Cornish under pressure and the opposition were penalised in their red zone and the Blues opted for a scrum. The Chichester pack drove for the line and the referee signalled advantage which came to nothing.
Harry Seaman took a quick penalty, darting across the line unchallenged, to open the scoring. It was converted by Henry Anscombe.
Cornish responded but knocked on three times in attacking positions. Finally, an overthrow from Chichester was gathered by the Cornish flanker. His run was stopped short, but not the subsequent pick and go. Converted for 7-7.
A powerful run from Sam Drayson made ground and Cornish were penalised within Anscombe’s kicking range and he slotted it.
A ball from Shaun Baker to Drayson was passed wide to full-back Tom Blewitt. His cut inside to draw the defender and sublime one-handed pass sent Gareth Davies on his way. The chip and chase was won by the defender but Blewitt’s follow-up forced the 22m drop-out.
The game ebbed and flowed for another 12 minutes until an infringement by Chichester on the 22m line provided Cornish with their second try. Blues responded by putting Cornish under pressure in the red zone. An infringement provided a kick to the corner and from the lineout the forwards drove the opposition over the line for Declan Johnson to dot down – 14-15. As the half drew to a close Henry Anscombe kicked a drop goal.
The second half’s first score went to Cornish. Chichester conceded a penalty in their red zone which was kicked to the corner. From the lineout the opposition drove towards the line allowing the scrum half to dart over and score. Converted – 21-18.
Chichester went back on the attack with the ball passing through the hands of Anscombe, Sam Renwick, Matt McLagan, Blewitt, Callum Cone, Seaman and back to McLagan for a try in the corner.
It took Cornish only four minutes to respond with a long pass creating an overlap for try number four, converted for 28-23.
Cornish lost a man to the sin bin for a deliberate knock-on. Anscombe converted the penalty – 28-26 and 20 minutes left.
Chichester increased the pressure, advancing to the 5m line. Despite the efforts of Phil Veltom, Drayson and Joe Woods, Cornish stood firm.
With the opposition back at full strength, Blues continued to apply pressure but were unable to find a way through. With the clock running down a rare attack by Cornish saw the left winger break tackles and head off down the touchline for what seemed a certain try.
A brilliant cover tackle from Blewitt took the Cornish player into touch inches from the try line. As Blues played the ball out of defence, they conceded a penalty in front of the posts allowing Cornish to run down the clock and increase the lead to five points.
Blues took a losing bonus point but were disappointed not to leave SW15 with five points. Supporters’ MoM was Declan Johnson.
Chichester: Drayson, Ives, Woods, Boulton, Gibson, O’Callaghan, Wallace (Capt.), Johnson, Baker, Anscombe, Davies, Seaman, Renwick, McLagan, Blewitt, Veltom, Makasi, Cone.