Chichester started their defence of the Sussex Trophy with a comfortable but mediocre 26-13 win against a well-motivated Lewes in an Oaklands Park quarter-final.
The Blues scored four tries and three conversions to Lewes’ two tries and a penalty. They had most of the possession but made mistakes and conceded too many penalties.
The visitors competed well in the tight and tackled hard. They had few chances in attack but succeeded twice.
The pitch had a hard top with mud below and following an inspection the game went ahead in winter sunshine under a blue sky.
Chichester made five changes in the pack with Tom Pellett and Mike Uta making their debuts. Scott Barlow switched to No8 and Jack Taggart joined Nick Blount at lock.
Chichester were soon attacking to the 22 but following four penalties, Lewes were at the other end kicking three points.
On 15 minutes Uta burst through from a lineout and the ball was sent out from the ruck. It was passed right then left for winger Richard Adams to show his pace and score the first try. Pearham slotted the conversion to make it 7-3.
Attacks mounted and Lewes scrambled in defence, hacking the ball to touch. A series of driving mauls and a penalty to the corner brought catch and drive, Phil Veltom finishing it off in his assured style. A missed conversion meant it was 12-3.
Good passing gained useful position but a knock-on and a Lewes turnover pushed them back. Their No8 was fired up and made a fine break before Adams cleared.
Two more penalties against Chichester and a handling error enabled Lewes to kick to the try line and force a five-metre scrum. A couple of pick and drives with the Chichester defence slightly disorganised allowed fly-half Campbell to get the touchdown.
Billy Toone at scrum-half was in the thick of things and striving to improve team cohesion which may have been the result of difficult conditions and effective spoiling by Lewes in the loose play.
Just before the break, the Chichester lineout and drive, proving too much for the Lewes defence, put Veltom across for his second try. Pearham stroked an excellent conversion from the touchline. Toone broke through but a well-timed tackle from behind stopped a certain try. So at half-time it was 19-8.
Hooker Gingell went on a rampaging run and from a scrum, the forceful Tom Polhill made his second break before being brought down five metres short.
Pearham changed direction and his weighted cross-kick to the left stretched the defence. Quick ball transfer and Adams streaked over for his second try. Pearham’s brilliant conversion, again from wide out, made it 26-8.
The Blues entered a scrappy period featuring wrong options, handling mistakes and indiscipline at breakdowns. Lewes pressed Chichester into the right corner. Jamie Knowles demonstrated it was not the right day for his reverse-flick pass.
Tom Lowe replaced Barlow and Rob Lawrence came on for Pellett, who had worked hard at the coal-face. Play remained in midfield with Lewes showing more determination and Chichester stuttering in attack.
Tom Polhill was again foiled by a hard tackle as he tried to penetrate. There was one more driving maul with Toone, Ben Polhill and Veltom carrying forward, but a penalty kick to the corner was surprisingly ruled dead by the touch judge.
Knowles ignored the lesson of the immediate past and tried the flick again, which was intercepted by Campbell. He galloped gleefully towards the try line, offloading to supporting runner Hodson to dive over at the right corner.
The match ended after two Chichester attacks came to nothing because of a knock-on and a penalty against them for crossing.
Chichester could have been more adventurous and used missed passes to get fast ball to the wings. As it was, Toby Golds in particular was starved.
Director of rugby Paul Colley said: “We did enough but we were not up to the expected standard and Lewes were effective in their spoiling and tackling. Mike Uta impressed and the Polhill brothers showed commitment throughout a patchy game.”
This week Chichester go to Hove for another must-win London one south game, with their close challengers Guernsey and Elthamians unlikely to slip up against Portsmouth and Thanet respectively.
CHICHESTER: Pellett, Gingell, Veltom, Taggart, Blount, Uta, B Polhill, Barlow, Toone, Pearham, Adams, T Polhill, Deed, Golds, Knowles, Lawrence, Lowe, Walker.