Chichester’s 25-18 home defeat to Guernsey was a pulsating and bruising National three London south east
game in which Chi played well despite serious injuries to both centre-backs.
They were always having to play catch-up after a very early shock but showed great resilience and Guernsey were kept at full stretch to clinch the points.
The Blues deserved more than their losing bonus point but the difference was that the visitors took their chances. Chi took two but missed several more.
The result means Chi will continue to battle with three other clubs to escape the relegation area and now have to overcome unfortunate injuries.
The islanders arrived late from their delayed flight to Gatwick but were quickly changed on a bright and mild day. A minute’s silence was observed in memory of Chi past president and oldest club member Douglas Stroud.
Chi were without Jack Bentall, Nick Blount and Mark Giddings. Alex Grace was captain for the day.
Guernsey started quickly and were ahead after two minutes. From a scrum just outside the home 22, scrum-half Nixon sold a dummy and sprinted through an open door. He reached the try line and was bowled over by a desperate tackle but the referee judged he had touched down. It was converted by full-back Hellier.
A spectacular breakout by Henry Anscombe and Aaron Davies sent very mobile Tom Belcher racing to 15m out, but the support was too far behind and his attempted inside pass to beat the last defender was intercepted.
A Guernsey attack was foiled by a strong Rhys Thompson tackle on the dangerous centre Brown. They also missed a penalty for offside.
Another great chance for Chi went begging when fast hands put right winger Matt Woodhouse on a run to the corner but as he was closed down his pass outside to Thompson brought a heavy tackle. Thompson tried to get up near the touchline but collapsed in pain and was taken to hospital with ankle damage.
Chi ran hard with several passing phases across the pitch but the Guernsey defence was well marshalled. Taff Davies kicked a penalty to make it 7-3.
Guernsey countered and Richard Adams was sin-binned for a high tackle. Chi paid the price for twice going offside to stop danger.
A penalty into Vultures’ Corner and drive lineout was followed by slick passing by the Guernsey forwards and a try for prop Ceillam, 12m in from touch. It was converted by fly-half Thomas for a 14-3 lead.
Another shock came when Thomas coolly swivelled and drop-goaled from 25 metres.
Chris Johnson crashed regularly over the gain line but he needed to offload quicker. Another penalty was won and slotted by Taff Davies.
Just before the break Chi pressed on the left flank and Anscombe’s accurate grubber kick was scooped by winger Harry Seaman, who went over at the corner flag. Half-time saw an 17-11 deficit but Chi optimistic. But fate was to be cruel to them.
The ball was whipped across to Seaman for a powerful run and then rucked to hooker Sean Shepherd to transfer along the backs but the move broke down in a tackle.
Guernsey replied with a Thomas break and reverse pass which just failed. Seaman was injured tackling and went off with a cut head.
Chi had a chance with a penalty for a lineout drive but lost the ball from the throw.
Johnson, Alex Grace and Don Farmer made good ground as Chi started to dominate possession and territory. But Farmer was heavily tackled and was taken to hospital with a suspected elbow dislocation.
Chi had all replacements on but were forced to play with two forwards in their back line, Phil Dickin in the centre and Charlie Wallace on the left wing.
Belcher, Aaron Davies, Shepherd and Wallace combined in another attempt to breach stubborn defence and a Guernsey forward was sin-binned for a ‘no-arms’ tackle.
Another lineout at Vultures’ was wasted by a crooked throw. A final pass went forward to Woodhouse who had overlapped and crossed the line but play was brought back.
Guernsey advanced to with a neat grubber kick to the left corner. They drove and scrummed to get the killer pushover try by No8 Hill.
A difficult conversion was missed.
Chi surged back with a huge driving maul and passes to the right wing. This time the defence was overstretched and Woodhouse scored – it was brilliantly converted by Taff Davies from the touchline to make it 22-18.
The large crowd urged Chi to score a dramatic winner against all odds but Guernsey dashed their hopes. Their pack shoved a tiring Chi pack back near the 22 and won the expected penalty for collapsing. Thomas made no mistake with the penalty.
The Blues were still trying hard as time ran out. Chi have been much improved in their past three matches and taken 11 points from a possible 15.
They face four more crunch games in January and will have to dig deep but their commitment has been demonstrated. On January 7 they take the long journey to fifth-placed Shelford.
Chichester: Deavall, Shepherd, Belcher, O’Callaghan, Dickinson, A Davies, Grace (capt), Johnson, Anscombe, Adams, Seaman, Thompson, Farmer, Woodhouse, T Davies, Vadei, Wallace, Evans.
Bognor couldn’t sign off for the Christmas break on a winning note - they lost 16-6 on their visit to United Services.
The Portsmouth side were too strong for the men from Hampshire Avenue, who remain one off the bottom in London three south west.
They’re back in action on Saturday, January 7, at home to Farnham.
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