Rugby: Blues can’t tame Wildgeese

Chichester's Chris Johnson takes the ball into contact in their recent win over Colchester / Picture by Kate Shemilt
Chichester's Chris Johnson takes the ball into contact in their recent win over Colchester / Picture by Kate Shemilt

Even in retrospect, the facts of Chichester’s 52-38 National three London south east defeat away to London Irish Wildgeese take some believing. Chichester set new records, good and bad.

They scored six tries but lost. They grabbed four of them in the first 24 minutes to earn a bonus point and the first try was scored in less than 20 seconds from kick-off.

Then, due largely to the damage caused by two yellow cards, they were hit by 40 points in the second half, collecting 12 themselves.

The final astonishing tally was six tries, five conversions and four penalties for Irish to six tries and four conversions for Chi. There was open running rugby which was very entertaining but Chi should have defended their lead better and their poor discipline cost them the first half penalties which kept the hosts in the game.

Chi kicked off in warm sunshine, the receiver fumbled and hooker Mark Giddings robbed him. He sped 20m to the line and held off a desperate tackle to score near the left corner. The conversion just missed.

Irish kicked a penalty for not releasing and the referee showed early signs he would be strict on any sins at ground level. Another penalty sailed over for a similar offence.

The final astonishing tally was six tries, five conversions and four penalties for Irish to six tries and four conversions for Chi.

After 19 minutes a good Chi scrum led to brisk handling and a penalty to touch. From the lineout Tom Belcher started a move which gave space for full-back Jack Maslen to dive across ten metres in from the right corner. Alex Marsh converted.

Irish attacked but left winger Paddy MacEnri intercepted and ran from his 22 all the way to the posts to score against his former club. The conversion was by Marsh.

Chi did it again when scrum-half Lester Pollard launched a high kick towards the right touch, Giddings gathered and passed to winger Dean Bonds to beat flimsy cover and spin out of a last tackle to dot down. It was 26-6 to Chi – it was not a dream.

Irish were in deep trouble but they are not promotion contenders for nothing. They pressed and gained two more penalty successes by their reliable fly-half. Belcher was yellow-carded for the last penalty after Chi had been warned about going offside and they should have listened.

Two minutes were left before the break but Chi would be one man short for the next eight minutes.

Irish emerged for the second half in determined mood. They swarmed on the attack and pressure on the Chi scrum five metres out brought a penalty try and conversion in front for persistent infringement.

Then Chi didn’t defend a lineout and a lock forward charged over for another converted try. Fourteen points lost in seven minutes meant the scores were level at 26-26.

Back to 15 men, Chi had lost momentum and Irish were on top. Their backs spun the ball left and a missed tackle meant a try at the corner, a difficult conversion missed. Then the next setback came for Chi as they tried to stop the rot.

They had advanced to the Irish 22 but were turned over at a ruck and an Irish player broke out with what could have been a clear but long run to the other end. But he was pulled back by MacEnri and another yellow card meant ten more minutes with 14 men.

To add to the misery ,prop Ken Dowding and fly-half Marsh were injured and had to be replaced.

Two more converted tries by the Irish scrum-half and left winger followed to make it 45-26.

To their credit Chi tred again to narrow the gap. Handling phases went both sides of the pitch with Bonds, Chris Johnson and Ed Durkin prominent. The ball was finally sent out to MacEnri who crossed at the left flag.

Back came Irish and from another very efficient lineout, a gap was found for their sixth try, duly converted. Chi had the last shout when a slick attack across the front of the posts and a final pass by Durkin sent Belcher, who shouldered his way past a last tackle. Maslen converted.

This was a game to live long in the memory. Irish may have to review their defence to mount a promotion bid. Chi know their own problems and must win their next two games, both at home. They meet a strong Gravesend squad on Saturday (2pm). All support very welcome – and necessary.

CHICHESTER: Dowding, Giddings, Belcher, O’Callaghan, Dickin, Grace, B Polhill, Johnson, Pollard, Marsh, MacEnri, T Polhill, Farmer, Bonds, Maslen, Norton, Seaman, Durkin.

ROGER GOULD

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