Great Gravesend victory is a bonus for Blues

Action from the Blues' visit to Gravesend / Picture by Alison Tanner
Action from the Blues' visit to Gravesend / Picture by Alison Tanner

Chichester’s aim in their crunch National three London south east game at Gravesend was to play well enough to earn a bonus-point win. It was mission accomplished after the usual close and hard-fought contest against their familiar Kent rivals, which ended in a 27-17 victory.

This was their fifth consecutive success over Gravesend, who must be tired of the Blues, but they were sporting losers despite the likely consequences for them in the relegation struggle.

The forwards were well matched with Gs having the edge in the tight, but Chi had a better defence and more attacking speed from their centres which brought two fine tries in the second half.

Players and travelling supporters were delighted, for it could have gone either way at half-time before Chi increased their tempo to gain a winning lead. The sting in the tail was that they were given two yellow cards and in each of the ten-minute spells with 14 men they conceded a try. That speaks for itself and needs to be avoided in future.

The final tally was four tries, two conversions and a penalty to three tries and a conversion.

The flat pitch was in decent condition. Chi welcomed back Jack Bentall and Ken Dowding from injuries, Martin O’Callaghan and Danny Gray returned, Henry Anscombe was at scrum-half with Harry Seaman and Alex Marsh moving to the wings.

The Chi players were keen to thank those who got behind them at Gravesend, including some seconds players whose match at Chichester had been cancelled by their opponents.

Gs had the better of the first 15 minutes with their lineout and maul working efficiently. But Bentall managed salmon-like leaps to at least catch the Blues throws against his much taller opponent.

Gs backs handled in phases but good tackling forced them into errors. A long penalty for Gs fell short and Chi stirred with a fast breakout by outside centre Jack Maslen supported by flanker Ben Polhill and full-back Richard Adams.

Bentall delivered off the top of the lineout, the maul rolled forward and hooker Sean Shepherd scored the first try near the right corner. Conversion missed.

Five minutes later Gs were muddled in defence and a clearance kick was charged down by inside centre Rhys Thompson who ran under the posts from 30 metres out. Converted by Anscombe, it made it 12-0 – against the run of play but with chances taken.

Chris Johnson showed his power at No8 going forward but Gs intercepted and an ankle tackle by Adams stopped a Gs counter attack.

On 25 minutes, Anscombe’s clearance kick 15 metres out from Chi’s try line was charged down by the lanky Irvine, Gs seized the ball and mauled across on the right for a try for veteran No8 Stevens. Conversion missed.

Gs pressed again and won a penalty for Chi entering the maul from the side. Anscombe was sin-binned but the penalty was pushed wide of the posts.

Bentall was injured and had to go off for a spell. Gs knocked on in attack – this was happening too often for home fans who became restless. However, Gs made amends with good handling across to right winger Okenia, who was too hot for a tackler and went round him to dot down behind the posts. It was converted by fly-half Thomasen and Gs were level at the break 12-12.

Bentall returned and Chi moved up the gears. They attacked with quick ball from Anscombe and Gray across the back line moving both ways as they probed.

A lineout chance was disrupted but Polhill caught at the next one and another raid saw the strong running Thompson, Maslen and Marsh starting to pierce the Gs defence.

Chi pressed and won penalties, the second converted well by Anscombe. Gs went back but knocked on again in the centre as tackles hit them. Maslen made a break but his pass found touch and not his winger.

The Chi pack produced a concerted breakaway from a scrum with Aaron Davies carrying to pass to the alert Adams appearing at his shoulder and almost over. The back row was now in charge on the front foot and Johnson was punching holes.

A flowing backs attack gave the space for Maslen to show his sprinting pedigree as he by-passed tackles to go over and run around for the third try. Anscombe converted to make it 22-12.

Gs advanced with yet another penalty and a good scrum, their experienced captain Forsyth doing all he could to rally his troops. But their hopes virtually evaporated when Gray and Thompson exchanged passes, Thompson charged through and despite a last tackle felling him, the ball was quickly recycled amd Anscombe gave the final pass for Maslen to get his double near the corner. Conversion missed – 27-12.

Gs had about 15 minutes to see if they could at least get a losing bonus score and with the help of penalties built pressure in the Chi 22.

Their mauling caused problems and Davies was sent to the bin.

Gs stuck to the task and after several scrums an accurate high kick found left winger Goss on his own and he was able to score without trouble. Conversion missed.

This week comes another match they must win – at strugglng Eton Manor. All support welcome at Wanstead, Essex.

The Chi players were keen to thank those who got behind them at Gravesend, including some seconds players whose match at Chichester had been cancelled by their opponents.

CHICHESTER: Dowding, Shepherd, Woods, O’Callaghan, Davies, Polhill, Bentall, Johnson, Anscombe, Gray, Seaman, Thompson, Maslen, Marsh, Adams, Greyvensteyn, Ellaboudy, MacEnri.

ROGER GOULD

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