Chichester go into the final two games of the rugby season in a desperate fight to stay in the National leagues.
They have vowed to give it all they’ve got – but their fate is now out of their hands.
The Blues slipped into the bottom three in National three London south east when Guildford recovered from being 31-10 down to win 37-31 at Oaklands Park last Saturday.
That means Chi almost certainly have to win both their last games – away to Colchester this Saturday and at home to Westcombe Park on April 22 – to stand a chance of staying at this level for a fourth straight season.
Even then they will be depending on other results going their way.
They head to Essex this week with Southend three points in front of them and Sutton & Epsom five ahead.
The quality of the league has increased, so has the amount of investment some other clubs are able to make, but we still believe we can compete at this level.Rob Lawrence
They need to end the season in front of at least one of those two to scramble clear of the relegation zone.
Blues head coach Rob Lawrence said a tense few weeks were ahead for the club.
“We have two very big games coming up,” he told the Observer. “It’s out of our hands but we need to concentrate on doing all we can to affect the outcome by winning our two games.”
It’s been a topsy-turvy season for Chichester. They have won games they didn’t expect to – and lost ones they should have won. Saturday’s loss was not the first time they had let a good lead slip.
Lawrence said: “We’ve played some excellent rugby but have sometimes failed to close games out when we should have done. That’s been the case in a handful of matches.
“We’ve been a little unlucky with injuries – both during games and over the season as a whole – but all teams get injuries. Some quite bad injuries have hampered us.
“We’ve not been at our best at times and we have to accept that. But for now we have to focus on the quality we can bring to games.
“The quality of the league has increased, so has the amount of investment some other clubs are able to make, but we still believe we can compete at this level.”
Saturday’s game at Colchester is against a side already doomed, but Lawrence knows it could still be a tricky test.
Last up, a fortnight later, is Westcombe Park’s visit to Oaklands, which, if the relegation issue is still up for settling, will require a huge swell of local support for the Blues. Westcombe Park are third but cannot finish in the top two.
Relegation rivals Southend are at home to Westcombe Park this weekend while the other team in Chi’s sights, Sutton, visit mid-table Westcliff.
Last Saturday was the ideal opportunity for the Blues to take a big step towards safety but Guildford completed an impressive comeback to win a bewildering game.
They scored 27 points without reply in the last 22 minutes, helped by Chichester having only 14 men after two harsh yellow cards.
Lawrence said whatever happened over the final two games, the end of the campaign would be the time for the club to reflect on the season. “Regardless of the outcome we won’t be talking a rebuild, more a refocus. We’ve had 17-year-olds in the first XV this season, and quite a few of them, and we are building something that’s great for the future.”
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