Rugby: Chichester must regain confidence for run-in

Chi RFC in recent action at Shelford / Picture by Alison Tanner
Chi RFC in recent action at Shelford / Picture by Alison Tanner

For the second time in three weeks, Chichester took the long road to Essex and were defeated - this time losing 33-5 at Westcliff in their latest National three London south east outing.

This time it was by the most improved team in the league,Westcliff , who had won their previous six home games and are now comfortable in mid-table.

They had extra muscle in their scrum and played with the control and cohesion which Blues lacked. Although two late converted tries made the score line a bit flattering, they were certainly the better side.

Chi played some decent rugby in fits and starts but following their triumphs against Dorking, Hertford and Sutton, they seem to have lost their self-confidence and this was their third loss in a row. They now have to be fully motivated and determined as they are hovering over the relegation trap door, with Southend two points behind them and in form.

Chi have four players injured and Henry Anscombe unavailable. Jack Bentall moved from flanker to inside centre, replaced by veteran Ben Polhill for his first game of the season. Dane Gingell also made a first appearance at tight head.

On a pleasant afternoon the hosts were soon ahead from a lineout and solid drive over by Jopling. Chi attacked for ten minutes after a run by full-back Jack Maslen and bursts by Chris Johnson and Taff Davies.

This Saturday it is a must-win against Amersham and Chiltern, who are at the foot of the table but still a threat. Blues know nothing less than a bonus-point win is necessary.

Four penalties were conceded by Westcliff at the left corner as they held up drives from lineouts and the surprising option of a scrum. Finally the ball was sent out to the backs and right winger Ben Robson came on a good angle to crash over. The conversion was missed to leave it 5-5.

It was fairly even for the next 20 minutes with Westcliff stronger in scrums but Aaron Davies doing well in the lineouts. Johnson was perpetual motion but was met by double cover.

Westcliff went up a gear with well-drilled support play and Maslen and Polhill had to make big tackles. The home backs were now in their stride and after several dangerous phases and,despite the tackles of Johnson and Phil Dickin, prop Binneman stretched over for their second try. Full-back Dudman kicked the first of his conversions.

Chi went back but Westcliff defended against a drive maul and cleared from another commanding scrum. From a lineout Westcliff spun across the pitch both sides and overcame a big hit by Bentall for No8 Vandermolen to dive across. It was converted. Half-time saw the score 19-8.

Maslen and Harry Seaman made good catches and clears from Westcliff kicks ahead and busy scrum half Jak Evans made a try-saving tackle.

Taff Davies started to make long touch kicks and Dickin was flicking back quick lineout ball. A chance was missed after an Evans break had been knocked on.

It was nip and tuck with defensive tackles by both teams but the pressure exerted by the Westcliff forwards was always likely to tire the visitors.

A Nick Blount breakout over 30m was ruined by a knock-on. Chi then lost a vital lineout with just five metres to go. Bentall was nearly through but firmly tackled, as was Maslen in a dash along the right wing.

Westcliff put Chi on the rack with five-metre scrums and Chi wilting after 70 minutes of hard graft. Finally flanker Scoggins penetrated and the conversion made it 26-5, with their bonus point earned.

Soon after, very slick handling phases by the backs put Marsh over at the corner and he ran around to make it an easy conversion.

The Blues made a last effort with Sam Renwick just held in the centre but the Westcliff defence were still organised very efficiently and no gaps were found as Westcliff completed the double.

This Saturday it is a must-win against Amersham and Chiltern, who are at the foot of the table but still a threat. Blues know nothing less than a bonus-point win is necessary. They must be completely ready to perform their best. Kick-off is 3pm and maximum support is needed at Oaklands Park.

Chichester: Deavall, Arden-Brown, Gingell, A Davies, Blount, Dickin, Polhill, Johnson, Evans, T Davies, Seaman, Bentall, Renwick, Robson, Maslen, Shepherd, O’Callaghan, Farmer.

ROGER GOULD

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