IT’S ALWAYS tough at Beckenham and Chichester were delighted to come away with a hard-fought 20-6 win that sent them top of the London one south table.
The journey was disrupted by problems which led to a very hasty warm-up and a delayed start just as heavy rain abated.
The team were much changed from the one who had beaten Haywards Heath, with Ben Polhill returning to the pack. His experience was to prove crucial in this tough away encounter.
In the backs there were wholesale changes for a variety of reasons with Billy Toone out with his nasty cut.
Talented new recruit Ed Durkin stepped in admirably with Richard Adams returning at No10 following long-term injury.
Sam Renwick switched to 12 for the injured Jack Bentall and Henry Anscombe returning at full-back.
Lewis Harte made his first-team league début from the bench.
Considering the travel disruption and multiple changes, the Blues started brilliantly with Phil Dickin carrying hard. An excellent kick and chase forced a Blues lineout deep in Beckenham territory.
Good ball and a quick transfer saw powerhouse hooker Tom Belcher surge over. The kick sailed harmlessly wide but with three minutes gone Chichester were 5-0 up.
The expected rustiness started to set in with some poor options and mistakes.
Aylewood, the home 12, twice intercepted loose ball and countered well.
The referee, excellent throughout, was allowing a genuine contest at the tackle area and the Blues were penalised for holding on – the penalty made it 5-3.
The packs were slugging it out with the blue No8 edging the early exchanges, but the final pass was going to ground and perhaps the Blues did not use the very strong wind as well as they might.
After 20 minutes, Tom Polhill had to leave the field following a knock to be replaced by Harte, who made an immediate impact with a strong surging run beating three defenders to go close.
However, with half-time nearing, the Blues had scant reward for their dominance – and although Blount and Goldie were winning good ball at the lineout and the scrum was very solid, the away side could not find the urgency required to open up the home defence.
It took until virtually the last play of the half for some time and space to be created giving powerful Ryan Doyle the chance to show his finishing power as he carved through wide out. At half-time it was 10-3.
The coaching team knew more application would be required if Chichester were to hang on to the lead and push for the bonus point.
The yellow and blue hosts forced the first second-half opportunity with a relatively-simple three points, but the kicker pushed it wide and Chi were off the hook.
The pack started to pick up the tempo with Polhill and Kasujja starting to boss the breakdown.
Durkin began to find some gaps and sparked the backline into life with Renwick hitting good lines.
Becks had a strong wind in their favour and time and again they punted long – but Harte and Tanner were starting to come to the fore, both wingers countering strongly and the Blues looking dangerous.
Anscombe lifted pressure with excellent angled kicks and the Blues were turning the tide.
Good field position gave the blue pack a chance to strike. With fresh legs on in Gingell and Grace, they were giving Becks some real issues storming to the line – Gingell emerging to cross the whitewash for the Blues’ third try.
Beckenham made one last big effort and gained field position for a penalty that made it 15-6, but this was their last strike.
The Blues spent the last 15 minutes in the home side’s 22.
Veltom and Turner gave Moses Kasujja a chance to blast to the line for the fourth bonus point try. Another missed conversion could not take the shine off a tough bonus-point win.
Head coach Rob Lawrence “It’s never easy coming here and we didn’t have a great first half, but we stuck to the plan and emerged worthy winners.”
Director of rugby Paul Colley said: “Some other results have gone our way and this tough victory puts us top – but we won’t get carried away.
“This league is massively competitive with nearly every side capable of playing good rugby, and there will be massive challenges to come.
“That’s none more so than this weeks home game versus a Sidcup side who have pretty-impressive early-season form of their own. We have to keep working hard and playing with the spirit we showed in the second half.”
Saturday’s start is 2.30pm.
CHICHESTER: Turner, Belcher, Veltom, Dickin, Blount, Goldie, B Polhill, Kasujja, Durkin, Adams, Tanner, Renwick, Doyle, T Polhill, Anscombe, Gingell, Grace, Harte.