Dons do damage to Chichester’s brilliant home record

Dane Gingall powers through for Chichester  Picture by Louise Adams C131709-6
Dane Gingall powers through for Chichester Picture by Louise Adams C131709-6

Wimbledon players and supporters punched the air in delight as their captain Neil Hallett landed a marvellous winning penalty from the touchline 40 metres out to complete a 24-22 win at Chichester in London one south.

The referee blew his whistle and Dons had ended Chichester’s unbeaten home record, which had stood since March.

It had been a great comeback after they were under the cosh for the first 30 minutes when Chi had complete domination and should have put more than 14 points on the board.

The Blues had the bad luck of an injury to livewire scrum-half Billy Toone with no specialist replacement for the second half, but hats off to the Dons for a gutsy display which deserved the points.

Two consecutive narrow losses mean Chi are now four points behind leaders Gravesend but at least the third and fourth-placed teams also lost.

Chi were without Ben Polhill, who was replaced by Chris Johnson, and Jack Bentall returned on the bench. The home side attacked from kick-off and pressed hard before Toone dived across from lineout and drive. Henry Anscombe kicked his first conversion.

An easy penalty in front was declined for a scrum, and a second for offside which sent a Don to the sin-bin. The scrum chance was lost by a mistake in the backs with the try line in stretching distance.

Toone ran 30 metres with Leon Driscoll in support. The ruck put the forwards on their way and Moses Kasujja held up just short. Prop Will Turner followed up and pressed down for the second score. The conversion hit the upright but bounced in for a 14-0 lead.

There was more tackling for the Dons defence until they cleared at last and moved over the halfway line. Johnson was yellow-carded for an illegal tackle and captain Jon Lindsay had to receive painful running repairs for a dislocated finger.

Then came a critical incident from a tap penalty when Toone charged 40m scattering tacklers but fell heavily and injured his shoulder. He stayed on for a short time but was unable to do much.

Dons stepped up the gears and missed tackles helped when they spun the ball, testing left and right flanks, for winger Scott to fly in at the corner. Hallett added the extras expertly from wide out.

The Blues had turned down penalties and were to regret it. They had also concentrated their attacks through the centre and their wingers had been starved. Dons had signalled they were now up for it. Perhaps it was the time to vary tactics to meet a new threat.

Dean Morris came off the bench to fly-half with Anscombe moving to scrum-half. A promising start to the second period with Dane Gingell, Driscoll and Tom Jackson combining along the right touch.

Dons replied with a backs raid and Hallett just missed a long penalty. He sent up a high kick to put his men on the front foot, and his long pass in another move gave lock Fishwick room to score ten metres in from the left corner. The conversion was nailed by Hallett.

Chi went to the other end and Anscombe added three points from a penalty for a 17-14 lead.

Dons winger Scott was causing problems with his pace and Chi’s clearances were giving the ball back. Chi tried an attack with large numbers but control was inadequate and rucks were not giving quick ball.

When it did go out to the backs, they were unable to penetrate some confident tackles. Phil Dickin had won nearly all the lineouts but now they lost two in a row, Dons seized their chance and whipped the ball across for fly-half Croke to beat Blues brittle defensive covering and dive over at the right corner. Another wide-out conversion was put away.

Encouraged by their supporters, Chi fought to regain the initiative. Bentall and Tom Belcher came on and the final battle began.

Lineout and drive was stopped by blatant infringement a metre short but a penalty try was not awarded, just another yellow card. So the Dons were down to 14 and after further pressure from ten metres out, Phil Veltom crashed across. The conversion was missed, leaving the score 22-21.

Chi decided to run down the clock with just four minutes left. It was pick and go until the last one when they were penalised, presumably for holding on the ground.

Up stepped Hallett, man of the match, to focus and strike the ball high enough against a breeze to dip just over the crossbar.

It was a dream come true for the Dons, but a nightmare for Chi. It had been a dramatic contest and one to remember by the Blues for the wrong reasons. Lessons must be learned but a big lift to morale is needed for the local derby home to Havant on Saturday (2.15pm). Please come and support your local team as they try to maintain a promotion challenge.

CHICHESTER: Turner, Gingell, Veltom, Lindsay, Dickin, Goldie, Johnson, Kasujja, Toone, Anscombe, Harte, T Polhill, Doyle, Jackson, Driscoll, Belcher, Bentall, Morris.

ROGER GOULD