A 24-8 triumph at Cobham was one of Chichester’s toughest games, an intense physical contest with plenty of passion and excitement.
The Blues scored four very good tries in the second half to get a bonus point. A change at the break and shrewd tactics made the difference with the forwards gaining the upper hand and setting up opportunities.
Once again London Irish Amateur also got their bonus point in their win by 28-22 at Dover, so there was no change in the race for a London one south promotion play-off. Tonbridge Juddians clinched the title and Chichester visit them for the last game of the season.
Ross Fairbairn was unavailable so Moses Kasujja moved to inside centre with Jon Lindsay at No8. Chichester started confidently and for 15 minutes they had all the ball.
Billy Toone spread it wide from forward drives and rucks. Eddie Armah was on the end of a promising attack but was forced out. Two smart moves were spoilt by knock-ons.
Rob Lawrence was stopped 15 metres out and Paul Todd was firmly tackled as he came in from the right wing. Richard Adams missed a penalty and the Blues had taken no points from their pressure.
Now Cobham picked up the pace and bossed the rest of the half. The back of the Chichester lineout was in trouble because of overthrowing to Nick Blount and spoiling work by Cobham’s Davison and Rodman.
Their fly-half Cowell opened their account with a comfortable penalty. Toby Golds had to run the ball out to touch to avoid danger and a drive was held up.
Lindsay robbed the ball and carried strongly but Chichester were on the back foot again.
The Blues defended with spirit and skill, Phil Veltom nailing a blindside drive. More mauls and corner lineouts required great catches near the front by Scott Barlow and solid clearance kicks by Adams.
Chichester escaped to midfield, where Armah was harshly sin binned for his first offence of handling on the ground after a tackle.
The visitors upped it and a drive and kick ahead was just too long as a handbags broke out on the touchline. A trespassing home spectator joined in the silliness but was outclassed and despatched to the correct side of the fence.
Yellow cards were awarded to Cobham’s Kennard and Chichester’s Ben Polhill and half-time brought a chance to cool off.
At 3-0 down Chichester needed the advice of their coaches – and it was to change the course of the game.
Ben Robson came off the bench to right wing and Kasujja joined the back row in the great struggle with their opposite numbers. For a while it was the Blues’ 13 against 14 and within three minutes Chichester took the lead.
The ball was whipped out to full-back Golds, who accelerated and placed a lovely grubber for Tom Polhill to pick up and drive on for second phase. Adams took a long pass off his toes to glide past a defender and touch down near the posts. He added the extras.
Back came Cobham and a penalty to the corner gave the maul another chance and Moreton was given the verdict from under a pile of bodies. Their conversion missed, but they led 8-7.
Golds ran 40 metres from deep and went for a solo try but was brought down with a man outside. Kasujja was also tackled on the hoof but he, Lindsay and Barlow linked to ship the ball to Adams and on to Robson.
He drew the cover and gave a lovely final pass to Golds sprinting outside him to dive over at the corner.
Cobham probably sensed it was now or never as the Chichester pack was controlling and delivering quick ball. The ball was kicked to the right corner and the Blues scrambled into touch. The Cobham drive went in but great defence saved Chichester.
Robson made a break but delayed a pass to Golds and the offload went forward. Chichester turned the screw, Lindsay drove off the back of the scrum and flanker Chris Johnson took the pass and charged over near the corner.
Cobham’s last bid was blocked and Chichester went hard for the bonus fourth try. At the left corner they looked to be driving over but Cobham deliberately infringed.
Chichester expected a penalty try but were given a penalty instead. Although they lost the last lineout the stage was set ten metres out with a scrum to Cobham and two minutes left.
A huge shove and it was taken against the head. Kasujja had the glory as he picked up at the back and swatted desperate tackles before crashing over.
Adams kicked a big conversion from wide to finish the job sweetly. In a match to remember, the players had given everything.
Director of rugby Paul Colley said: “It was very competitive and physical. Cobham were up for it and were strong, especially in the first half when they disrupted us. But we stood up to their pressure and I was proud of our lads as they drove them back in the second half and finally deserved the points.” This week Chichester play their Sussex Trophy semi-final at Oaklands Park against Brighton. All support welcome.
CHICHESTER: Shopland, Lawrence, Veltom, Barlow, Blount, Johnson, B Polhill, Lindsay, Toone, Adams, Armah, Kasujja, T Polhill, Todd, Golds, Pszczonka, Smallman, Robson.