Chichester gave their supporters an early Christmas present by gaining their fourth straight win and a bonus point with a 30-17 success over Civil Service 1863.
Other results meant they moved up to second in National three London south east – only four points behind the leaders. However, just seven points separate the top six teams and every game is vital in the chase.
The Blues made a very bright start, lost their rhythm in the middle section, but pulled away in the second half with three well-worked tries.
Chi have lost only four times in 14 matches – a great achievement so far in their first season at this level.
They were without the Ed Durkin and Phil Veltom but Henry Anscombe was at scrum-half, Alex Marsh alongside him, Joe Woods at tight-head, Toby Golds on the right wing and new second-row recruit Rich Neil on the bench.
The crowd was swollen by those who had enjoyed the mini and juniors’ lunch.
Chi scored in four minutes. From a lineout, the ball flashed across left with Richard Adams joining the line and the final pass taken and finished off by Tom Jackson at the corner. A great conversion by Anscombe from the touchline made it 7-0.
The home side showed early signs they were superior in the tight but CS had some eager young backs and Golds had to make a big tackle to stop their left winger.
Ben Polhill snaffled a loose ball at the CS ruck for Adams to send a huge touch kick. A driving lineout followed, CS were offside near the posts and Anscombe slotted the penalty.
A Marsh attempted clearance kick was charged down and a couple of passes sent CS flanker Clarke over, with the conversion by fly-half Killeen.
Chi won a scrum against the head, Chris Johnson drove on and won a penalty which was missed from 35 metres. Chi shoved CS off their scrum ball, CS dropped it and Anscombe was round to seize and score near the right corner. The conversion missed from the touchline.
The Blues were passing and handling well but met good cover tackles and in defence, Jack Bentall and Woods put men down firmly.
CS had the best of the last five minutes with their first driving maul, a lineout and scrum exerting pressure before Marsh finally cleared his lines. At the break it was 15-7.
Head coach Rob Lawrence told them they needed to increase their intensity – and they responded.
First blood went to CS with a break by their backs, a ruck and maul gaining a penalty kicked by Killeeen.
Chi built attacks but were penalised at the breakdown and also for a crooked feeding at the scrum. Top gear was now engaged and attacking waves began.
Another charge by Johnson put CS in trouble at their scrum and Anscombe took a quick tap penalty for the pack to drive Ken Dowding over for his first try for the club – it was 20-10.
Aaron Lowe, Joe Shopland and the dynamic Bentall were prominent as Chi turned the screw. Bentall’s raid along the right touch gave Golds a chance and he made sure at the corner for the bonus-point try.
CS were not giving up and Chi had to work hard to stem another maul.Chi were looking for more and impressive sweeping moves with fast delivery by Anscombe and Marsh stirred the festive crowd.
The ball was spun out left at a pace which beat the cover for the tall and long striding Lowe to creat a two-on-one with Adams steaming up on his port side. The unselfish pass was perfect and Adams dived across stylishly – 30-10.
Perhaps an excusable relaxation allowed CS to score from their drop-out when a fumble gave them a driving lineout and maul working towards the posts and a consolation try for hooker Forrester, converted easily by Killeen.
For the first time this game had a referee with two assistants. The excellent man in charge was also being assessed. A remarkable statistic was that he penalised Chi’s scrum-half three times for crooked feeds.
It could be that as Chi’s front row had the nudge over their opponents consistently, the problem was caused by forward movement rather than deliberate offence when Chi were in attacking mode. Another highly-unusual feature was CS’s failure with four drop-out kicks which either failed to go ten metres or went straight out to touch.
Chi fly to Guernsey on January 3 for a very demanding game against the islanders who will be desperate to get away from the relegation zone. Some Blues fans will be making the trip.
CHICHESTER: Dowding, Shopland, Woods, Davies, Lindsay, B Polhill, Johnson, Bentall, Anscombe, Marsh, Jackson, T Polhill, Lowe, Golds, Adams, Belcher, Neil, Seaman.
Paul Colley, director of rugby at Chichester RFC, spoke of his pride at where the club find themselves at the end of 2014.
“We end 2014 playing at the highest level in our long and proud history,” he said. “After the celebrations of our play-off win versus Eaton Manor, we did not know how we would fare at the next level.
“We play against sides with increasingly-large budgets but as we did in London one and two, we have pulled a predominantly home-grown squad together, added a few very good players and have proven the will and talent is there.
“We sit second in a very strong league and for the first time in a very long time are the second highest league ranked side in Sussex. With sides near the bottom able to overcome sides at the top, there is an awful long way to go – but for now we will enjoy our success.
“As a club we are immensely proud of our playing record across all senior sides and indeed across the whole mini and junior section. The first team are the flagshipso all our effort will be to maintain the fantastic level we have achieved so far.
“To all our coaches, supporters, and sponsors a big Yuletide thank you and we look forward to seeing you all at Oaklands Park in the new year.”