Chichester rugby stars ready for biggest game

Chichester have been in fine form at Oaklands Park this season  Picture by Louise Adams C140210-6
Chichester have been in fine form at Oaklands Park this season Picture by Louise Adams C140210-6

CHICHESTER RFC are ready to realise their National League dream.

They welcome title rivals Gravesend to Oaklands Park this Saturday for what some are saying is the biggest game in the club’s history.

If they win, they will have taken a massive step towards winning London one south and securing promotion to the national divisions for the first time in their history.

They’re hoping a crowd of more than 600 will pack the park to cheer the Blues on to a win that could open up a whole new era for the sport in the city.

Gravesend are a point behind Chichester with a game in hand, so defeat would almost certainly hand the title to the Kent side and leave Chichester to make sure of finishing second and then trying to go up via a play-off.

Head coach Rob Lawrence said everyone at the club was relishing the prospect of a big day.

He said: “We’re ready for it - very ready. I’ve felt since before the season began this would be the game to decide the title.

“We’ve got ourselves 95 points from 23 games and if we can get the full 15 from the remaining three, we will win the title. It’s as simple as that.

“There’s excitement but with a note of caution. Gravesend have a very strong squad and they were playing National League rugby for six or seven years before being relegated to our league by very fine margins.

“But we are extremely focused on this game, and have been in fact for ten games. The players know what’s at stake and will give it their all.”

Lawrence urged all local sport fans to get along to Oaklands Park to support the Blues. The game starts at 3pm but the bar opens at midday and there will be a barbecue.

“We had something like 600 or 700 here for our biggest game of last season and it would be lovely to top that. We know all our regular supporters will come to the game but it would be fantastic to see some new faces too,” he said.

Chichester are fortunate that a number of injuries have cleared in time for players to be named in what’s a strong-looking 22-man squad for the game.

Lawrence said recent fine form in all areas of the pitch had thrown up some tough selection decisions but he was satisfied the XV plus replacements selected would be strong enough to get the job done.

Even if the Blues prevail on Saturday, there will be tough tests to come - they round off the league season by visiting Wimbledon and Brighton, who are both in the top six.

A home win would represent revenge for Chichester after an agonising 24-23 defeat at Gravesend in December, when the visitors could have won it with the last kick.

“We just want to get out there and get the game played now,” Lawrence added. “The squad haven’t lewt anyone down all season and aren’t going to start doing so now. I actually still don’t think we’ve seen the best the team have to offer - hopefully that is to come.”

STEVE BONE

See news of Chichester v Gravesend on this website on Saturday evening and watch out for video highlights and a picture gallery in the days that follow - plus all the action in the Observer on Thursday.