CHICHESTER started this season as they had finished the last – with another pulsating game at Oaklands where a large crowd saw a great comeback by the home side as they beat London Irish Amateurs 21-16 in National 3 London & south-east.
Trailing 16-3 at half-time, they fought with determination and skill to dominate their strong opponents and score 18 points without reply.
The very special winning try in the last five minutes gave them their first four points in the national league. They had prevailed against most predictions and there was great celebration among players and supporters.
The tally was two tries, three penalties and a conversion to two tries and two penalties.
In perfect conditions Irish were soon probing for gaps with their heavy and mobile forwards linking with their back line. Rhys Gillings set a good example with firm tackles as their back row threatened. Chi replied but no chance was created.
The Irish backs showed good hands and brought an overlap on the right for their winger Bradshaw to score in the corner. The conversion was missed.
Blues drove forward and an Irish lock injured his arm and was replaced.
The first concerted Chi attack by the backs involved the returning Danny Gray, Sam Renwick and Richard Adams, who made ground along the touchline.
Experienced and aggressive No8 Mckinney came away with the ball for Irish and was getting over the gain line. Chi also had to cope with half-breaks by their centres and full-back.
Joe Woods led a powerful drive to their 22 and Gray kicked high to to the right, Adams running hard, but the ball went out at the corner. The Chi scrum were holding their own against heavyweights and although the lineout fluctuated, Nick Blount and Phil Dickin were getting a fair share of the catches.
Irish fly-half Prescott missed a penalty before landing another to make it 8-0 to the visitors. The Chi backs showed potential with some slick passing and a run by Renwick.
But they were caught out when a speculative Irish high kick deceived the cover and and Irish flanker Moore seized the ball to run in for their second try from the 22. The usually-reliable Prescott missed the conversion.
Aaron Davies and Blount drove from the drop out and forced a penalty which was kicked confidently by Gray. Just before the break Chi lost two lineouts and were penalised in the scrum, Prescott on target this time with his kick to make it 16-3.
Whatever was said to the Chi players at the break worked. They rolled up their sleeves and got cracking. They concentrated on attacks to the left into Vultures’ Corner, but Irish defended stoutly.
The Chi backs missed one chance through a knock-on and a key lineout was lost for the same reason. However, they were now moving the ball around and Irish were finding it difficult to get possession. The pressure brought a penalty kicked by Gray.
Irish were still menacing on the counter attack and Renwick had to make a vital tackle in the centre. A fast raid by Chi backs was carried further by Renwick and Tom Belcher and Irish infringed to give Gray his third penalty success – 16-9 and game on.
Adams threw a long pass out to to Aaron Lowe who galloped 30 metres before he was checked. Chris Johnson was making inroads with his bullocking runs from back of the scrum and Chi turned the screw.
Chi drove and mauled towards the right corner and the Irish hooker was yellow carded. Chi took full advantage and drove over from a second lineout and maul, Belcher pressing down. A fine conversion by Gray made it 16-16 and there was great excitement in the air.
A touchline penalty was short but Irish were now being rolled over by the pressure. With the clock running down Irish backs were drawn out of position and the astute Gray spotted a big hole on the left.
He turned and launched a superb kick to the left wing which Leon Driscoll caught perfectly at pace – and the crowd roared him over the try line from 25 metres. The conversion narrowly missed but the final whistle followed shortly and there was great rejoicing. Chi had done it against all the odds.
Director of rugby Paul Colley was very pleased with the whole-hearted effort by the squad. Although this was the first game, he felt that on this form Chi should be competitive at this higher level.
This week Chichester are at Chiswick to play Civil Service 1863. Support welcome for a 3pm start.
CHICHESTER: Belcher, J Shopland, Woods, Blount, Davies, Polhill, Gillings, Dickin, Walker, Gray, Driscoll, Mudd, Renwick, Tanner, Adams, Gingell, Johnson, Lowe.