Chichester let a lead slip as they fell to a first National League 3 London & South East defeat in four matches on Saturday.
Chi looked on course for victory as they opened up a 12-9 advantage on their first-ever visit to Southend Saxons, only for the home side to run in two tries and a conversion in the final 25 minutes to edge it 21-12 in the end.
Southend were well-organised, with a grinding front-five and tall playmaker Bradley Burr at centre, who kicked 11 of Saxons’ points.
Chi did have a couple of chances to nick it towards the end but Southend held on for a worthy win.
With Richard Adams unavailable and Phil Dickin injured in training, Jak Evans was at scrum-half, Henry Anscombe filled in at fly-half, while Taff Davies returned to inside-centre.
Army player Ben Naiyanga was nearside flanker and Ross Miller made a return on the bench.
Both teams slugged it out on a heavy pitch in cold conditions.
Chris Johnston made the first of the charges but there were problems up front with Saxons’ tight head disrupting and Chi moving backwards.
Southend won territory, forcing Chichester to tackle hard, before they were penalised and Bradley Burr kicked three points confidently.
Kicking exchanges were fruitless, then Chi were penalised for crossing, which has been an all too regular occurrence of late. Burr kicked superbly from 40-yards as Southend raced into a 6-0 lead.
Chichester worked themselves into the game with carries from Veltom, Nick Blount and Ben Robson. From a line-out, Anscombe and Johnston probed, before Saxons were reduced to 14 temporarily following a high-tackle from one of their players.
Chi made the most of the man advantage and a first try of the day came soon after.
An attack took Chi right to the corner, then a line-out drive put Naiyanga over.
Saxons were having a great deal more of the play, with their scrum continuing to be a strong platform.
Blount and Jack Bentall were standing firm against a tall Southend lock at the rear of the line-out.
With time running out in the opening 40 minutes, Saxons pressed and Chi were penalised at a ruck, with Burr adding another three points as Southend lead 9-5 at the interval.
Following a line-out catch from Aaron Davies, Johnston collected the ball and, in typical buccaneering fashion, he broke through the defence.
Despite being stopped just before the try line, Chichester passed across the backs for Maslen to score left of the posts’. Taff Davies then added the extras as Chichester lead for the first time, 12-9.
The odds were on Blues to go on and make it four successive league victories, - though things changed soon after. Naiyanga was shown a yellow for a high-tackle, leaving Southend with an extra man.
Saxons capitalised on the man advantage with a scrum and blindside break, sending Ricki Gould over at the corner. Burr failed to convert this time but Southend were back ahead, leading 14-12.
Chi were pinned in for all of 15 minutes in the 22, with several five-metre scrums being contested in this time.
Blues players tackled like demons but in the end their resistance was broken. A lovely grubber-kick was caught by George Griffiths, before touching down.
Chi kept pushing for a winning try, with Sam Renwick and Robson prevented by covering tackles.
A penalty 25-metres out and a line-out drive was turned over at the try line, so Chi lost the chance of a losing bonus-point. Saxons defended well in the closing stages and were well worth their 21-12 win.
Chichester return to Oaklands Park on Saturday as they welcome table-toppers Tonbridge Juddian in the league on Saturday. All support needed against the talented, firm promotion favourites.
CHICHESTER: Deavall, Arden-Brown, Vadie, Blount, A.Davies, Naiyanga, Bentall, Johnston, Evans, Anscombe, Robson, O.Davies, Renwick, Seaman, Maslen. Replacements: Veltom, Shepherd, Miller.
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