A 54-19 victory over Guernsey in their third National three London south east game was an amazing result for Chichester and there was consensus among supporters that their second-half performance was the best ever seen at Oaklands Park.
The Blues scored 40 points after being level at half-time and slipping 19-14 behind soon after the break.
They played at great pace and their handling was superb. Strong visitors were eclipsed and Chi ran in a total of eight tries and seven conversions to a try, a penalty try and two conversions.
Three wins out of three means they are second to Westcombe Park in the league.
Spanish loose-head prop Antonio Valasco made his debut, as did back rower Sam Pichford from the bench. With Joe Woods off to university, Tom Belcher was at tight head.
The first 40 minutes saw both sides probing. Attacks were varied and the tackling fierce with many big collisions. The Gs experienced backs like Campbell, Barnes and Batiste sniped but were unable to breach despite good ball from their superior scrum.
For Chi, Danny Gray, Leon Driscoll and Rory Tanner made good ground and after 17 minutes a lineout was won 15 metres out, the pack mauled well and Aaron Davies was over for the first try. Gray kicked the first of his conversions.
Gs soon replied, Chi losing another scrum and then infringing. Scrum-half Rutledge took the tap penalty and dived over, full-back Whitehead converting.
Richard Adams made a scything run and set up phases which were stopped by good Gs tackles. Chris Johnson was a tower of strength with his defence and carrying as horns were locked in midfield.
Nick Blount found his way through to link with fellow lock Davies and on to Tanner. The flying winger made his acceleration and touchdown look simple. The second try was converted.
Gs were guilty of handling errors in useful positions but pressure forced Chi to concede penalties five metres out as the Gs scrum turned the screw. A penalty try was duly awarded and converted in front by Whitehead.
Chi countered and Sam Renwick made a half break but was yanked back by a dangerous high tackle. The offending prop was sin-binned along with Henry Anscombe, who had taken exception.The penalty was narrowly missed by Gray.
At the break it was all to play for at 14-14 – and no-one could have imagined what was going to happen.
Replacements were rotated and Dane Gingell, Pichford and Danny Kirkpatrick came on. Gs intercepted a Blues attack and a charged down kick led to a yellow card for holding on the ground.
Another tap penalty and try for the nippy Rutledge but the conversion was missed – 19-14 to Gs.
Chi were a man down but suddenly they cut loose and what followed was the stuff of dreams. Pitchford and Driscoll ran hard and set up intense pressure on the Gs try line. There was no reward as a penalty was given away at the ruck.
However they returned when Pichford seized the ball and passed to Tom Belcher on the home 22. The amazing prop shimmied past a defender and sprinted 65 metres along the right touchline, outstripping everyone to score a memorable try at the corner. The conversion was missed.
Chi were in top gear and the ball was spun regularly to the backs, who were handling slickly at top speed. Centre Aaron Lowe broke through and fed Tanner.
The speedster stepped inside and outside, leaving tacklers grasping thin air as he went over for the fourth try. The conversion made it 26-19.
All the backs handled in the next move led by Adams and Tanner which sent Davies on a curving run to score score at the posts. That too was converted.
Adams went on a trademark weaving run on the left with switch inside for Gingell in support to send it on to the centres and out to the right corner, where Driscoll gathered to score. Another conversion made it 40-19.
Gs were run ragged and could not escape the Blue tidal wave. Gray picked up from one of their knock-ons and popped the ball to Renwick to stride across and touch down – it was converted.
Gs were desperately tired but they commendably went forward for a few minutes and Chi had to defend strongly and received a team yellow card for in at the side.
The final attack in front of a delighted and breathless crowd saw Tanner beating more men and the supporting and inspirational captain Ben Polhill unlucky not to score. The move continued with Pichford held up but Blount on the scene to pick up and score from ten metres. Gray’s seventh conversion took it to 54-19.
The referee said afterwards the speed and intensity in the second half was the best he had seen so far in National three.
Head coach Rob Lawrence said he had told his players at the break to increase the tempo considerably. He was pleased they had used great width to overstretch their opponents.
Lawrence felt they could be even more clinical but the positive approach and smiles on faces were nice to see. He felt the Blues could challenge for top place but a lot would depend on the next three games against tough teams.
This week Chi will be at Tonbridge Juddians (3pm). All support is welcome for this challenging game.
CHICHESTER: Antonio, Shopland, Belcher, Blount, Davies, Polhill, Dickin, Johnson, Anscombe, Gray, Tanner, Renwick, Lowe, Driscoll, Adams, Gingell, Pichford, Kirkpatrick.