OAKLANDS PARK could see its biggest-ever rugby crowd this Saturday when Chichester play the semi-pros of East Grinstead - and try to delay the visitors’ title celebrations.
EG have won all their 22 games in London one south this season, scoring 1,168 points with an average difference of 53-7 per game.
They have already announced they will beat the Blues and be crowned champions.Their supporters have been urged to travel and take part in the celebrations.
All that may be a little presumptious, bearing in mind a similarly-strong team called Tonbridge Juddians lost just one game in their promotion year, completely against the odds at Cobham.
However, it is true that the visitors have an exceptional squad. They have quality players, several from overseas, who have been recruited over two seasons. Thanks to their intensive training led by player coach Justin Bishop, an ex-Irish international winger, they have developed their strength, speed and tactics to a very high level.
They are likely to be successful in National League three and beyond if the same squad can be retained. They are especially good at high-speed counter attacks from deep positions, as Blues experienced in the away fixture.
At 26-10 down with 20 minutes left, Chi were attacking but were struck three times by long-distance tries to lose 45-10.
It was not a fair reflection of the play but rugby is all about making chances and finishing clinically.
Chichester will aim to give them a hard game and perhaps put back the celebration at least one week. The Blues are enjoying their third great season at the top level for amateur clubs.
They have won 19 of their 22 games, including all 11 home games.They have completed seven double wins so far with three more still possible against Trojans, Gosport and Dover. Their team spirit is first class and they have recently showed their determination in winning at Sidcup and Wimbledon.
Director of Rugby Paul Colley and, this season, head coach Rob Lawrence have produced a fine squad and over the past three seasons they have lost only three of 37 home games - and they were against teams who went on to gain promotion.
They are in second place in the league, two points ahead in the race for the promotion play-off spot of Basingstoke, who will be playing Sidcup at home. But the Hampshire club have to play the G-Force of EG away in the last game of the season on April 20, when Chi travel to Dover.
Colley said: “Our season and perhaps even our club’s history can be shaped by this one Titanic match.
“I urge any rugby fan and in particular anyone who has had any connection to the club to come to Oaklands Park on Saturday for what will undoubtedly be our biggest challenge EVER.
“EGs have invested heavily to get where they are and have a host of big-time players. So far they have smashed all opposition by big margins - but we have a group of players that have dug deep this season to sit second in this compelling league and promotion is still on.
“With the vocal support of the Blues fans we can cause a massive upset. First versus second - it’s all to play for.”
So all roads lead to Oaklands this Saturday, kick-off 3pm. Chi want to be backed by as many supporters as possible for what should be an entertaining and sporting contest with a lot of skills on display.
The club said: “Be there early please and visit the clubhouse bar for refreshment and rugger chat.”
Full coverage of the big game in the Observer next Thursday