Bearing in mind their selection problems, a 20-10 victory away to CS Rugby ranks as one of Chichester’s best-ever performances away from home.
They deserved the four points after an enthralling end-to-end game in London one south against strong opponents at the top of the league.
With the half-time score 10-8 to CS, Chi fought back with their pack steadily gaining ascendancy. Their determination and team spirit prevailed over a side who, like the Blues,wanted to continue their unbeaten run.The winning margin was three tries, one conversion and a drop goal to CS’s try, conversion and penalty.
Chi had five players on the injured list and two others unavailable. Simon Pinhorne and Aussie recruit Adrian Lynch made debuts and the amazing Tim Cook, aged 37, took the right-wing berth.
Alex Grace returned after a long injury absence and Joe Woods and Harry Seaman joined him on the bench.
After a late arrival Chi had a limited warm up. CS soon threatened on the left wing and then from a scrum-half grubber-to-corner touch.
Jamie Wilcock needed treatment as Chi struggled to get going. Henry Anscombe kicked a long clearance for a lineout won by Aaron Davies and a solid scrum.
A hurried CS kick was charged down by Davies, Chi pounced and Richard Adams only just failed with one of his lofted kicks to Nat Jackson on the right wing. A kickable penalty was missed by Anscombe.
A CS fly-half beat two tackles, leading to a drive maul towards the Chi posts. Tackles by Jack Bentall, Martin O’Callaghan and Adams prevented a score but when the ball went back to midfield, hooker Jack Arden-Brown suffered a bad knee injury at the breakdown and had to be helped off.
Woods was the replacement at loosehead prop with Tom Belcher moving to hooker.
CS kicked the first points from a penalty on 25 minutes. Lynch was doing well but sustained a neck injury and left to be bandaged. Chi went to the other end and Chris Johnson and Seaman ran and offloaded.
Although possession was lost and the CS full back ran it out of the 22, Blues quickly turned it over and launched an attack. Bentall was nearly through and Adams surprised everyone by delivering a lovely drop goal between the uprights to make it 3-3.
CS counter-attacked and a long kick ahead was scooped up by the fly-half who ran around the posts to dot down. It was converted.
The CS right winger was sent to the bin for infringing to stop a Chi maul near the try line. Anscombe sent the penalty to the left corner, then clean lineout and drive maul saw Davies touch down but the conversion was missed. It was 10-8 at the break to CS.
Pinhorne caught in the lineout and Anscombe found another long touch. Three big tackles by Johnson, Wallace and the restored Lynch knocked opponents down. Chi went up the gears and drove to the try line.
A 5m CS scrum was disrupted by a big shove and Chi had the put-in with Phil Veltom, Belcher and Woods on fire in the front row.
Johnson was nearly across from pick-up. At a second scrum he combined with his captain for Jack Bentall to dive over and score their second try. Anscombe converted and Chi led 15-10.
A huge driving maul by CS travelled 25ms under good control. Chi stopped it five metres out but this led to intense pressure on their line.
Chi tackled like demons and held on, every man doing his duty. They finally forced a turnover and broke out thanks to a great 40m run by the inspired Bentall. Now CS tired.
Wilcock made a break and Chi retained the ball, working several phases across the pitch as CS defended as best they could. However, Bentall had to make a big tackle on the CS full back before he, Johnson and Seaman attacked with speed.
Anscombe made a break and Lynch nearly went through with a cut inside. Just inside their own 22, the CS scrum went backwards and collapsed. Their backs knocked on as they were harried, giving another Chi scrum. Chi controlled it skilfully and Johnson picked up to charge across and cement the win with a fine try.
The beaming smile on the face of the very weary Chris Johnson said it all.
This week Chi are at home to old friends Cobham, who are ninth in the league. All support welcome at 3pm as Chi go for their fifth consecutive win.
Chichester: Belcher, Arden-Brown, Veltom, O’Callaghan, Pinhorne, Davies, Wallace, Johnson, Anscombe, Adams, Cook, Bentall (capt), Lynch, Jackson, Wilcock, Woods, Grace, Seaman.