Chichester’s tense and nail-biting London one south contest at Sidcup was decided in the 77th minute when right winger Rory Tanner scored the winning try in the corner.
Only three minutes earlier Sidcup had taken the lead with a debatable try and conversion. But with great resilience and team spirit Blues went to the other end to clinch the points with a sweeping crossfield move.
It was remarkable that despite being outplayed in the tight, they gained enough possession from disciplined rucks and mauls to supply their hard-running backs, who were in good form.
The outcome was crucial for both teams in the promotion race and Chi consolidated second place with Brighton losing at Chobham. The Blues’ outstanding players were centres Jack Bentall and Sam Renwick, who linked superbly and ran with speed and strength to make breaks.
Sidcup are very tough opponents and their well drilled scrum and lineout dominated. They should have made more of their chances outside.
The home team had not played for a month but previously had won five of their past six games, losing very narrowly at Gravesend. Their squad has been strengthened since their defeat at Oaklands Park.
Chi were without injured Will Turner and Phil Veltom. The front row had to be rearranged with Chris Johnson drafted in at hooker and Joe Woods at tight-head. Henry Anscombe switched to scrum-half with Richard Adams back at fly-half.
The pitch was reasonable despite mud patches covered liberally with sand. The first 10 minutes was ping-pong with high kicks being returned usually with interest.Sidcup were more dangerous and Johnson,Woods and Kasujja had to tackle hard. A dummy and break by Sidcup scrum half Ibrahim put the supporting flanker Elliott over for the first try, converted by Montgomery.
Johnson charged powerfully through tackles but Chi were struggling to control things with their lineout all at sea. They gradually advanced through solid rucking and winning penalties. An attack was led by Tom Belcher and Kasujja and a penalty to touch set up good position.
The first lineout was lost but a short Sidcup clearance gave a second chance. Nick Blount caught and the ball was fired out to the backs.
Bentall offloaded with perfect timing to Renwick hitting a great line and he raced over from 20 metres. It was converted by Anscombe to make it 7-7.
The Blues began to assert themselves with Renwick making a half break and Ben Polhill clearing up after a lost scrum. Renwick punched a hole in the Sidcup defence and a penalty into the corner set up a lineout and drive across the try line, Jon Lindsay touching down.
Chi were in their stride and Bentall and Renwick combined with Johnson to get close again. Adams sparkled with some typical swerves as they finished the half 12-7 up.
A long run by Renwick was followed by a controlled driving maul and Adams received the ball, swivelled and dropped a goal from the 22.
Sidcup made changes which reinforced their control of scrum and lineout and put increased pressure on the Blues. But their backs were not penetrating and the clever scrum-half started to try too much himself. Finally the Chi scrum was penalised in front of the posts and Montgomery made it 15-10.
At this point the scrum was being pushed back yards, but Chi were strong on the counter attack. Johnson was just stopped and Tanner tackled out near the corner. A Woods breakout gave more handling to the backs, passes being given and received skilfully.
Billy Toone, Niall Goldie and Luke Davies came on as replacements.
Sidcup’s pick and go had been held by the Chi back row but their pack won more ball for an attack with the end looming. Their centre kicked low to the try line and there was a chase to touch down. Chi thought Bentall had won it but the impressive referee ruled otherwise and the try was converted to make it 17-15 to the hosts.
Straight from drop-out, they forced a lineout and won it. Kasujja stormed down the blind side and was only stopped by a brilliant last-tap tackle.The ball was instantly seized and sent out with excellent handling, especially by Bentall, for Tanner to take over.
Cometh the minute, cometh the man! He beat two opponents in ten metres of narrow space along the touchline and made it look easy for a try in the right corner.
There were two minutes for Sidcup to reply. They won a penalty 30 metres out near touch. They decided they had to go for the win and not a draw.
They kicked to the corner but Chi held them at the lineout and the whistle went with the travelling supporters delighted and relieved.
This Saturday, Chichester host mid-table Sutton and Epsom for naother must-win encounter. All support welcome for a 3pm start.
CHICHESTER: Belcher, Johnson, Woods, Blount, Lindsay, Dickin, Polhill, Kasujja, Anscombe, Adams, Reid, Bentall, Renwick, Tanner, Jackson, L Davies, Goldie, Toone.