Rugby: Blues delighted to get National League account open

Chichester in possession against Colchester / Picture by Kate Shemilt
Chichester in possession against Colchester / Picture by Kate Shemilt

Chichester beat Colchester 15-13 in National three London south east – prevailing against last year’s London one north champions in a must-win game that followed defeats for both sides in each of their opening two games.

Colchester arrived for their first ever game at Oaklands Park in superb conditions with the sun beating down on a firm pitch that had plenty of give.

Colchester brought a big pack that was well drilled and perhaps for the first time ever, the returning Phil Veltom faced a prop taller than him.

Veltom’s return and the last-minute introduction of Jon Lindsay in the row bolstered the Chi pack and debutant Ben Naiyanga coming in at No7 was to prove a major force as the game wore on.

The backline had plenty of pace with Jack Maslen in at 15 for the injured Richard Adams with Dean Bonds and Paddy MacEnri available on the wings to bring pace and experience out wide. Billy Toone, after a couple of decent cameo appearances from the bench, won the starting slot at No9 and used all his guile and ruggedness to keep the pack going against tough opponents.

Chi started brightly with quick phases of play sweeping them up to the away 22. A great lineout saw the Blues drive a long way with the line at their mercy and Colchester sent two men to haul the maul down – a penalty was given but no penalty try or yellow cards.

We were relieved to get the win after a couple of difficult games. We backed our processes and got the win I think we deserved.

Danny Gray

With the free ball kick across field, Alex Marsh gathered and scooted over from wide out. The conversion was missed and the Blues left wondering what might have been so early in the game.

The Blues played with pace and tempo with Danny Gray pulling the strings, with the black-shirted Colchester really stretched.

The forwards carried hard – Chris Johnson as always was near the action but Naiyanga started to join him and force the away side back. However against the run of play Colchester struck a good penalty to make it 5-3.

Chi didn’t let up with big Veltom stopping several attacks and the Blues started to gel. They forced a penalty which Marsh struck well for an 8-3 lead.

Colchester offered an attacking threat with their hard-running No14 giving the home side problems. From one strong run the Colchester No10 slotted another penalty. The half ended 8-6 but the Essex side were incurring the wrath of the ref, with one off to the bin.

The Blues were going to have to dig deep and they did – the Polhill brothers lifted the team with Tom carrying and tackling like a demon and Ben covering every blade of grass to shut down the emerging threat.

In defence Colchester threw caution to the wind. Again a card came out against Colchester for side entry – but the Blues still could not get enough settled ball to prise open the stubborn defence.

Colchester sensed their chance and lifted the tempo and got away from a tiring defence to score what might have been the killer blow with the conversion pushing them into the lead at 13-8.

The Blues had all three replacements on with Farmer on his début on the wing carrying hard and Pollard at No9 bringing fresh impetus around the ruck.

Naiyanga was getting his hands on the ball more and more with his relentless running and good tactical kicking.

The Blues pressed hard into Vulture’s Corner – launching wave after wave of attacks – and another card was shown to Colchester. Then Naiyanga struck... another surging run saw the debutant touch down with five minutes left and an easy conversion made it 15-13.

The Blues pounded away and perhaps should have got something out of this last period of dominance but in the end were content to play out the game deep in the away side’s half for their first win of the season.

Player-coach Danny Gray said: “We were relieved to get the win after a couple of difficult games. We backed our processes and got the win I think we deserved.

“Colchester look a very decent side with a very strong pack and a couple of dangerous backs – once again I think this season will show that on any given day, most sides will severely test others in the league.”

This week Chi visit London Irish Wildgeese, one of the season’s early high flyers.

CHICHESTER: Dowding, Giddings, Veltom, Dickin, Lindsay, Pohill, Naiyanga, Johnson, Toone, Gray, Bonds, Pohill, Marsh, MacEnri, Malsen. Reps: Richter, Farmer, Pollard.

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