Brilliant Blues give fans the perfect Christmas send-off

Sean Shepherd in possession for Chichester against Guernsey / Picture by Michael Clayden
Sean Shepherd in possession for Chichester against Guernsey / Picture by Michael Clayden

Christmas is the time for presents and Chichester delivered a much-wanted one with a brilliant first-half performance, scoring five tries to one and blowing away Guernsey for a 31-20 win in National three London south east.

They knew they had slipped into the league danger area and very positive action was needed. They responded with determination, a secure forwards platform and first-class handling by their speedy backs.

Guernsey had their fair share of territory and possession but could not recover from four tries against them in the first 32 minutes.

In this form Chi have the ability to win the three crucial away games in January against teams they have beaten at Oaklands Park. The crowd’s support was also just what the doctor ordered and was greatly appreciated by the Blues.

Phil Veltom was unavailable so stalwart Nick Shopland stepped in again at tight-head prop. Danny Gray was welcomed back at fly-half and Richard Adams moved to full-back. Alex Grace was open-side flanker and Jack Arden-Brown on the bench for a home debut.

Conditions were reasonable with a moderate crosswind as Gs kicked off. They had the better of the first exchanges with Chi giving away penalties, and from one of these Gs fly-half Thomas kicked three points.

Chi struck back with the pack driving, the ball sent out to outside centre Jack Maslen to run a clever line and pass for Dean Bonds to accelerate and score at the right corner.

The scrum was holding its own and Grace stole a lineout. But Gs attacked and pressed in the 22. They drove and their backs ran hard but met solid tackles in the centre and were finally turned over.

Tom Jackson had a useful gallop on his wing but Gs returned and Chi resisted again near the corner flag.

Blues now rolled up their sleeves and the ball flew across the back line. Bonds made ground and his offload inside found centre Rhys Thompson to cut in and dot down behind the posts. Gray converted to make it 12-3.

The Gs fly-half was sin-binned for a spear tackle and Chi swarmed forward with Adams joining in. Bonds was tackled just short but the pack was quickly on it and rucked well for scrum-half Harry Seaman to dive over the top for the third try.

The backs were rampant, Adams joined again and the ball was switched to the impressive Thompson to put Jackson away. The left-winger left a tackler for dead and went over at the corner to increasr the lead to 24-3. Three tries in seven minutes and the bonus point already in the bag.

Inspirational captain Chris Johnson caught the restart kick and went through three tackles with his amazing strength. But the shocked Gs showed they were fighters and their backs carved a chance which was finished by winger Davison at the left flag.

Just before the break, prop Tom Belcher broke out and with his renowned speed sprinted 25 metres and passed to workhorse Martin O’Callaghan on his shoulder. He returned it and Belcher drew the full-back for final pass outside to Bonds, who whizzed across to complete another sensational move. Gray converted well, 31-8 and Chi had given by far their best display of the season.

Guernsey had to play for pride but without much hope of climbing the mountain. Chi did not help themselves by having two players sin-binned in ten minutes for silly offences.

Gs took advantage and from a lineout and drives, flanker Ahne was over at the right corner. Chi moved back and attacked with a kick by Bonds along the touchline.

They scrummed and drove at Vulture’s corner but Gs held on with strong defence and when the ball was sent out, Chi took a wrong option and the chance was missed.

Replacements Arden-Brown and Omar Ellaboudy came off the bench and were soon busy. Gs were looking more dangerous in the centre and tried hard to find a way through. Chi’s backs passed slickly again and Jackson was tackled and then held after good footwork.

To their credit Gs strained to get another try and Chi were forced on the defensive. Seaman was injured in a collision and replacement Alex Marsh had to operate at scrum-half.

Ben Polhill showed all his experience as Chi tackled and tried to counter but Gs deservedly got their consolation when a fine backs move was finished off by centre Brown taking a well-timed pass at pace and scoring under the posts. It was converted.

Chi managed to wind down the clock by good control with pick and drives in midfield and clinching a great win. They and their supporters can now enjoy their Christmas dinner.

CHICHESTER: Shopland, Shepherd, Belcher, O’Callaghan, Davies, Polhill, Grace,Johnson, Seaman, Gray, Bonds, Thompson, Maslen, Jackson, Adams, Arden-Brown, Ellaboudy, Marsh.

ROGER GOULD

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