Chichester left Westcome Park after a 22-15 defeat - but having shown Westcombe Park that life in London one south won’t be easy.
The Blues travelled to Goddington Dene to start the 2018-19 campaign away to a team relegated at the end of last season.
After the retirement of Chi duo Jack Bentall and Jack Arden-Brown the side was captained by Charlie Wallace with Dane Gingell coming at hooker. Ben Polhill started his 22nd season in the first XV as blindside flanker.
Conditions were excellent for rugby and early exchanges were fairly even, Chichester surviving a scare when a clearance kick on their 22 was charged down.
The subsequent attack broke down with a knock-on, to the relief of the Blues. Eight minutes in, Westcombe’s scrum half left the field with a dislocated elbow.
From the first scrum Westcombe applied pressure and advanced, winning a penalty for an infringement in easy kicking range – 3-0.
Chichester reacted positively and on the quarter-hour won a lineout in the Westcombe half. The ball was passed swiftly along the line and a powerful run from Ben Robson breached the opposition defence for a try, converted for a 7-3 lead.
The Blues grew in confidence and had Park trapped in their own half for an extended period, giving away penalties. With Westcombe defending their try line, what seemed a certain try was thrown away with a rushed move by Chichester, allowing the home team to clear.
With four minutes of the half left a Coombe maul set up a break and offload for their stand-in scrum half to touch down and convert and give the hosts a 10-7 interval lead.
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Westcombe came out of the traps quickly, looking to increase their lead. Their left winger broke through the Chichester defence and was stopped short, but the ball was recycled quickly for a simple score next to the posts, converted for 17-7.
Chichester infringed at the breakdown giving Westcombe the opportunity to extend their lead. However, good fortune was again with the Blues as the ball bounced off the sbar and was cleared.
It was Westcombe’s turn to concede a penalty at a ruck, which Jack Martin stroked between the uprights.
The home response was instant with the left winger again involved, cutting through Chichester’s line to supply a ball for the try. A missed conversion meant it was 22-10.
Chi RFC get international assistance
Chichester increased the tempo looking for a way through the well-organised home defence. Despite conceding a number of penalties Westcombe held firm until a well-worked move across the pitch put Alex Taylor in at the corner for Chichester’s second try – it was 22-15.
Chichester continued to exert pressure and spent several minutes in the home 22. After a series of rucks close to the try line, John Lindsay broke through and crossed the whitewash but the referee confirmed the ball had been held up.
Westcombe were relieved to kick the ball into touch to end the game.
The Chi management team will draw positives from this first match. It was particularly encouraging to see some of Chi’s recent Colts in the team.
Chichester: Prior, Gingell, Woods, O’Callaghan, Taylor, Polhill, Wallace, Johnson, Goodwin, McLagan, Hutchin, Thompson, Robson, Norton, Seaman, Maxfield, Lindsay, Martin.
This Saturday Chichester entertain Tottonians at Oaklands Park. Kick-off is at 3pm and there is a pre-match pie-and-pint lunch from 1pm.