Blues beat Sutton to keep title challenge burning

Phil Dickin leaps for the ball for Chichester against Sutton & Epsom   Picture by Kate Shemilt C140311-5
Phil Dickin leaps for the ball for Chichester against Sutton & Epsom Picture by Kate Shemilt C140311-5

Chichester kept up their title challenge with an ultimately-comfortable 48-8 London one south win over Sutton & Epsom in gorgeous sunshine at Oaklands Park.

The Blues went into this game on the back of a tremendous last-gasp victory at Sidcup but knew they had to keep going and keep winning to keep their promotion dream alive.

They showed a couple of changes, with young Harry Shonk coming in for his second league game in the front row and Billy Toone back in the No9 jersey. The Blues pack was shuffled with big Nick Blount moving to the bench alongside the returning Dane Gingell..

Chi knew Sutton were dangerous and were determined to start quickly - and this they did with the forwards creating quick ball from word go.

The away defence scrambled to hold the blue tide but came in from the side. The resulting penalty was kicked deep into Epsom territory and a great forward surge saw Shonk dot down to put Chi 5-0 up with only three minutes gone.

Richard Adams moved the ball at pace with Sam Renwick hitting a superb line to breach the black and white defence. A subtle change of angle created space for flyer Rory Tanner and with a well-timed pass Tanner scorched around the outside to score. Adams slotted he extras and it was 12-0.

The Blues then took their foot off the pedal with individual errors creeping in. Spilled passes and glaring missed tackles gave Sutton a lifeline.

They slotted a penalty and sensed the indecision in the home ranks, and with their pack getting stuck in by fair means or foul they stifled the blue ball. Chi showed glimpses of their attacking threat through Tanner and Renwick but the defence tackled well.

Epsom started to get some ball and kicked well to the corners. The blue line out faltered and Sutton pounced, gliding over for a simple score to reduce it to 12-8.

The Blues reacted quickly with Moses Kasijja carrying strongly. A high tackle forced a penalty which was missed.

Chi forced another penalty and there was a yellow card for the Sutton prop - Adams converted to make it 15-8 at the break.

Harsh words from coaches Paul Colley and Rob Lawrence galvanised the Blues with Toone picking up the tempo almost from the off. In a dazzling run from almost his own half, the livewire scrum-half danced and sped past the despairing black and white defenders to score a top-drawer solo try under the posts.

Renwick, building on his MoM performance from the previous week, hit another great line, powering through the first tackle to go on a massive surging run.

Kasujja and Tom Belcher showed the forwards could also carry and another penalty was earned - but Sutton cleared.

Goldie was becoming more prominent at the tackle area and created great turnover, forcing an attacking scrum deep in Sutton territory.

The Blues rang the changes with 15 minutes gone in the second half with Blount, Gingell and Wagstaff coming on.

Sutton defended the scrum and cleared their lines but from the resulting line out Goldie pounced on a spilled ball to crash over which Adams converted for 29-8.

The ref, after a series of penalties against Epsom, pulled out his second yellow card. The pack made it count with a great driving platform and Kasujja smashed over the No9 to score a well taken try out wide.

Blount soared to take the ick-off and the blue machine rumbled into life - quick ball and Adams was away. He has been out for almost all the season and it was great for the Oaklands faithful to see the he has lost none of his pace as the fly-half carved through the narrowest of gaps and outpaced the cover for another superb solo effort backed up by a towering conversion.

Young Reid started to show his skills - with a couple of deft touches he showed why he has come up from the twos in recent weeks. But it was left to Tanner on the other wing to round things off. Using his lightning pace and an outside swerve, he beat a tiring defence to score under the posts.

Director of rugby Colley said: “It was an excellent second-half performance against a side that really dug in. We are under no illusions that the error count was way too high, particularly in the first half, and the team performance was a little way off the fantastic effort at Sidcup.”

With four league matches to go, Chichester sit top of the league by a point - however Gravesend have a game in hand.

Colley said: “The last four games will be massive.”

After a rest this week, they go to Staines on March 22 - then host what looks the pivotal game against Gravesend on March 29.

CHICHESTER: Belcher, Shonk, Davies, Lindsay, Dickin, Goldie, Polhill, Kasujja, Toone, Adams, Reid, Bentall, Renwick, Tanner, Jackson. Reps: Gingell, Blount, Wagstaff.