Rugby: Blues out to make big impression in third national season

New captain Jack Bentall

New captain Jack Bentall

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The head coach of Chichester Rugby Club says they are only looking up after suriving ‘second season syndrome’.

The Blues’ second year in the National League proved a difficult one, but a strong start and finish to the league campaign meant they eventually finished well clear of the relegation zone.

Their tenth-place finish was three below where they ended in their debut year in National three London south-east but Rob Lawrence says there was much to be positive about, and a successful third season at their highest-ever level is in the offing.

Chichester kick off a new league campaign on September 3 at Westcombe Park, with the first home game against Shelford on September 17.

Lawrence is overseeing additions to the squad which he hopes will help set them up to do well.

“We achieved a lot last season to be happy and proud about – not all of it noticeable,” he said.

The bond in the squad, the brotherhood, is developing all the time and we will reap the benefits of that long-term.

Rob Lawrence

“The bond in the squad, the brotherhood, is developing all the time and we will reap the benefits of that long-term.”

Lawrence pointed to four home games last season which the Blues lost by very narrow margins – all of which they should have won – as hitting their hopes of a top-half finish.

And he said whenever injuries hit, they seemed to be serious, longer-term ones.

Jack Bentall is the new captain, taking over from Chris Johnson. Lawrence said: “He’s been at the club a long time and has a very good rugby pedigree.

“We have a few players moving on and a few coming in and there’s been a good vibe to our early pre-season training sessions, with good numbers. We have players who want to achieve something and there is a buzz around the whole club.”

The major clubhouse revamp is nearing completion and activities like O2 touch rugby sessions for all ages and abilities, and events for the ever-expanding mini and junior section, are thriving.

Lawrence said his dream was to see Oaklands Park packed with spectators for every home game and vowed the team would aim to play fast-flowing rugby to help attract people.

Lawrence will again be assisted by player-coaches Danny Gray and Ken Dowding in overseeing the senior squad from which Chi’s first and second XVs will be picked.

The third and fourth XVs will also train together and Lawrence promised there’d be no barriers to players making their way up through the different teams – or down!

Once again National three south promises to be very competitive this year.

Dorking and Southend have been relegated into the division with Sutton & Epsom, Amersham & Chilts and Guildford promoted into it. Westcliff were reprieved from relegation because East Grinstead have pulled out of the National League set-up, while the make-up is completed by Wimbledon, Colchester, Guernsey, Hertford, Tonbridge Judds, Westcombe Park and Shelford.

Lawrence said he’d love to see any would-be new players at training between 7pm and 9pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

And the club’s need for new sponsors is as acute as ever – no offer of any kind of help is too small.

See www.pitchero.com/clubs/chichester for more.

STEVE BONE