In hot sunshine at Chichester College, Chichester hosted two warm-up games against Tonbridge Juddians. It was an entertaining afternoon with the first XV losing 21-12 and the seconds winning 17-12.
The Blues should be encouraged by their performances and there will be healthy competition for selection when the season starts on September 1.
Chichester 12 TJs 21
Jon Lindsay led out his team against the semi-professionals from Kent who finished second last season in National League three south.
Chichester fielded a rich mixture of familiar faces, graduates from the successful Colts squad and promotees from the seconds. It was fast and physical with plenty of open play, strong running and mistakes by both sides under pressure. TJs prevailed by three converted tries to two tries and one conversion.
Chris Johnson was soon charging forward, knocking opponents aside. TJs replied with a swift move stopped by full-back Ross Fairbairn.
Richard Adams twice kicked accurately over the top to set up useful positions before putting a penalty to the corner. Reece Cavossi fed from the lineout and a big drive by the forwards took them to the try line with Niall Goldie just held up.
Exchanges became overheated and Chichester lost possession. A clever cross-kick by the visitors was dangerous but scrum-half Jack Walker came to the rescue. An Adams intercept and kick forward looked promising but TJs were quickly on to it and counter attacking.
Chichester dropped a high ball and TJs spun it out to the right, a break was made and their big lock took the offload to score. The extras were added.
The Blues made changes to give old hands a rest and some new recruits a run. An excellent backs move saw Sam Renwick make a half-break but the defence held. Another break by Walker was halted ten metres out.
Chichester scored a classic try with quick ball whipped by Adams, Renwick and Tom Jackson out to Fairbairn, joining the line and beating the tackle into the left corner. A conversion by Adams made it 7-7. Two other chances ended with an unnecessary body charge to stop Josh Hutchinson and possession lost after a half-break in the centre by Jack Bentall.
TJs regrouped and launched attacks from quick ball. Their flanker robbed the ball from a ruck and set up crisp passing for their second try and conversion. Soon after, the Blues mishandled a kick to the wing, the ball was stolen again and the cover outstripped for a try near the posts.
The last minutes belonged to Chichester as they gave the TJs defence a good test. Three penalties were awarded as Chichester advanced to the left corner and TJs tried to stem the tide. The forwards drove them back and Harry Seaman dived through the bodies for a deserved try, unconverted.
Head coach Rob Lawrence said: “I was pleased because this was an acid test against top opponents and much of the play was even. We lost our tight discipline in the middle of the second half which cost us the game. But we can learn from it.”
Chichester II 17 TJs II 12
Chichester had much the better of the first half, showing enthusiasm, speed and good handling.
Martin O’Callaghan won lineout ball and out it went to the backs with impressive offloads for Blewitt to open the score on the left wing.
Ben Robson tackled well in the centre and kicked nicely over the TJ backs. The next try came from a spectacular counter attack finished by Toby Golds sprinting over.
TJs threatened but final passes went astray and Golds saved a certain try with a typical last tackle.
TJs came back strongly in the second half and had the better of it. They scored wide out after a break through the middle and a second came from their hooker, who shot through a gap following a forwards’ drive.
It looked ominous but Chichester picked up again. Two neat passes sent James McLaughlan on his way to score at the posts. The extras were added. The last five minutes saw Chi defy TJs as they strove to snatch the win.