Chichester will almost certainly be relegated from National three London south east after what seemed to be a winning try in the last minute at Colchester was disallowed, condemning them to a 30-24 defeat.
Only an extremely unlikely failure by Sutton and Epsom to beat Amersham in their last match could save the Blues and even then Chi will need to win at home against Westcombe Park.
Southend and Guildford both winning with bonus points sealed Chi’s fate. It was an open end-to-end game at Colchester and the margin was small – four tries, two conversions and two penalties to four tries and two conversions.
Chi emerged with two bonus points but they they had succumbed to another fightback by determined opponents in a second half. This time they lost a 19-15 lead at the interval.
Chi were without Taff Davies and Sam Renwick and had to make positional changes. Just to prove that lightning can strike twice, they were shocked to find the same difficult young referee from their previous match was again in charge.
Colchester kicked off in lovely weather and went ahead within two minutes as good handling across their backs put right winger Chamberlain-Carter over at the corner. Conversion missed.
Chris Johnson had his first run and the referee got going with three penalties and arm-waving against Chi. One was taken from the tee and converted by Crozier for an 8-0 lead.
Jack Bentall announced himself with a big tackle and Jack Maslen intercepted a pass and ran from halfway to score at the posts. Henry Anscombe converted.
From broken play Colchester No8 Whiteman jinked too easily past a groping defence to score, with cthe onversion by Crozier making it 15-7.
Phil Dickin had to depart with a neck injury, replaced by Ross Miller with Bentall moving into the pack. An excellent bout of passing by Bentall, Johnson, Danny Gray and Aaron Davies gave the ball to Ben Robson, who evaded the last tackle and went around the posts for Anscombe to convert –15-14 to Colchester.
After 30 minutes Chi were awarded their first penalty. A lineout and maul took the Blues to five metres out. Johnson picked up from back of the scrum and touched down but the referee said no and brought play back. Another strong attack with Gray, Richard Adams and Phil Veltom thrusting gave the chance to Maslen to use his body swerve and score at the right corner. A good conversion attempt narrowly missed.
Colchester replied with a dangerous attack and a drop kick which went wide. Chi led 19-15 at the break but they had to expect Colchester to hit back hard.
The yellow cards began soon after restart. Miller went to the bin in midfield for something mysterious, unless it was for the team. Colchester backs attacked with good hands but knocked on in the tackle.
Veltom charged out of the 22 and fed Anscombe who sprinted to the opposite 22, but a knock-on ruined a good chance. Colchester received their first yellow card for a pull-down at a lineout.
Chi pressed on the left flank with driving maul and another sin-binning for Colchester for either offside or in at the side – nothing was ever clear by word of mouth.
Johnson could not be stopped and he went across for the bonus-point try. The conversion was well wide but it was 24-15.
As against Guildford, Chi soon found their opponents were not giving up and Colchester stepped up to the plate. Miller returned but Colchester were still a man down. Surprisingly they started to play better and get on top despite the handicap.
Crozier kicked another penalty and an attack along the left wing beat poor tackles, resulting in a try for inside centre Liversidge and another two points for the conversion. Colchester now led 25-24.
Yet another penalty was given against Chi and fly-half Higgins sent a high kick to the left corner. That man Crozier was up to beat Adams to the catch and touch down. Conversion missed – 30-24.
Chi tried desperately to retrieve the situation. Harry Seaman was stopped on the left wing but the forwards drove hard across the front of the posts.
Two drives put them between the uprights and there was great rejoicing as Davies pressed down for the try in the last minute. Disbelief followed when the unsighted referee ruled held up, but he insisted.
Chi took the scrum and were about to push over when they were penalised and Colchester kicked the ball out for the end of the game. I made the penalty total in this game was 17 against Chi and seven against Colchester.
Chi’s final game is on April 22 at home to Westcombe Park (3pm).
Chichester: Belcher, Arden-Brown, Veltom, Blount, Dickin, Davies, Wallace, Johnson, Anscombe, Gray, Seaman, Bentall, Maslen, Robson, Adams, Deavall, Shepherd, Miller.
Footnote. The referee may not have read my previous constructive comment about his attitude to players. I must repeat he shows no empathy and must try to do more to advise them on technical requirements which seem to preoccupy him. - RG.
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