Chichester kicked off their third season in the National League with a defeat - while Bognor wrapped up pre-season with a victory that sets thewm up nicely for their own kick-off this weekend.
Westcombe Park 18 Chichester 17
National three London south east
Chichester lost narrowly at the end of an encouraging performance against the Kent cup holders who lost just one home game last season.
They had very limited possession but managed to score three tries to two from open play. In the end Combe won it thanks to their dominant front five but they made many mistakes and were made to struggle against Chi’s excellent defence.
The Blues came away with a deserved losing bonus point.
Six players made their Chi debuts: Owain ‘Taff’ Davies, Ross Miller, Ben Deavall and – on the bench – Evan Woodworth, Jack Lumbard and Tom Blewitt.
The pitch was dry but a stiff breeze blew across it. Combe attacked but ran into firm tackles. Full-back Toby Golds caught and cleared to touch as Chi resisted.
After ten minutes Chi seized a loose ball at the lineout and slick inter-passing between Golds, Henry Anscombe, Phil Dickin and Chris Johnson from just inside their own half put Tom Belcher across near the right corner. It was an outstanding score and Belcher twisted cleverly as the last tackle arrived. The conversion against the wind drifted wide of the near upright.
Combe resumed their pressure and from a scrum they moved well to draw in the cover and give the right winger room to score at the corner. The conversion just missed so it was 5-5.
Combe knocked on from the restart and Chi fed inside centre Rhys Thompson who beat three opponents in a determined diagonal run.
Belcher was in support again and he dived across for a second great try. Conversion missed.
Combe replied quickly, fly-half Cameron nailing a penalty for Chi not releasing at the tackle. Sadly a penalty for Chi struck a post.
The Blues were struggling in the scrum against a large and streetwise pack and their lineout was misfiring regularly.
For the last ten minutes of the half they were under the cosh but the somehow held on with huge effort and the back row of Chris Johnson, Alex Grace and Aaron Davies tackling like demons.
Two yellow cards were received for infringements close to the line. Remarkably Chi won two penalties themselves to clear their lines. They had done very well and led 10-8 at the break.
Although they had been on the back foot, they had shown their flair in the counter-attack.
Aaron Davies, Johnson and Dickin made good ground but a bad pass in the backs lost the ball. Combe continued to probe from scrum and lineout but ran headlong into tackles, or knocked on or gave a forward pass.
Chi had survived with 14 and 13 men and were back to strength. Taff Davies sent them away from danger with a long touch kick but another poor lineout lost possession.
It became a hard slog between the forwards and Grace had to leave with a bloody nose caused accidentally by a colleague.
The referee kept blowing against Chi and it became stop-start. Combe continued on top but Thompson and Harry Seaman had useful runs.
A Chi passing movement broke down on the left wing and Combe seized their chance as Chi had advanced without cover.
The Combe right winger scooped the ball and ran hard towards the other end; two passes and they were across for their second try.
There was a fine conversion by Cameron, who soon after kicked a good penalty to make it 18-10 to Combe.
With ten minutes left Anscombe sent a soaring kick to the left wing. This time it was Combe without enough cover, the only defender lost footing and Chi replacement winger Blewitt picked up and raced 15 metres to the line, almost over-running but responding to shouts to round the posts and dot down. Conversion by Taff Davies.
Chi were 18-17 down with five minutes to go. There was one last effort by Johnson near the Combe 22 but a penalty was conceded and Combe punted to touch for the final whistle.
This week Chi fly to play Guernsey at their impressive ground. It’s a big challenge as the islanders started with a good win at Colchester.
CHICHESTER: Deavall, Shepherd, Belcher, O’Callaghan, Dickin, Johnson, Grace, A Davies, Anscombe, O Davies, Seaman, Thompson, Maslen, Miller, Golds. Reps: Woodworth, Lumbard, Blewitt.
Bognor 27 Haywards Heath 24
Bognor chalked up a narrow home win in their final friendly before their London three south west campaign starts at home to Eastleigh this Saturday.
A strong and organised Heath side started brightly with good attacking rugby. Bognor struggled to get a foothold early on and poor decision-making was making life very hard.
It wasn’t long before a good blindside move from the base of the scrum put the Heath winger through for a try.
Heath set the tone in the first 15 minutes with a huge hit from the 13 on Jack Hornibrook which everyone bar him enjoyed.
The scrum was a strength for Bognor with the powerful pack making sure, with or without the ball, the scrum went forward. Another score followed for Heath as the second row burrowed over from a metre out.
Bognor started to wake up and got decent field position for the first time. This led to another solid scrum in an attacking position and a beautiful line from centre Pat Gibbs saw him glide under the posts. Conversion successful.
Heath responded well and a poor clearance kick was collected by the powerful No13 who skipped past lazy Bognor defenders and ran in from 50m.
A high tackle on Dan Harding brought a response from Harding which led to him seeing yellow and Bognor going down to 14. Another score from Heath quickly followed and they found themselves 24-7 to the good at the break and a man to the good for five more minutes. Some strong words came from coach Rob Outen at half-time. The roasting had an immediate effect as from kick-off Harry Dyer broke through and Bognor were on the front foot. This continued throughout the second half.
Dyer continued to make a powerful introduction from the bench and Harding came back on.
A penalty from the 10m saw quick thinking No9 Newcombe exploit a tiring Heath side. Good hands from the Bognor backs led to a strong break by Archer, who offloaded to Mike Calton to drop over the line. An easy conversion was missed.
Tireless work from Harding, Knight and Masters started to show. Another bit of quick thinking from the Bognor backs and slick handling led to Connor Satturley putting Pete Outen on the outside for a fantastic try.
Fantastic phase play by the Bognor forwards led to Gibbs picking from the base of a ruck and dancing through to score. Another easy conversion was missed.
Bognor were two points behind with 12 to play. Two relatively-straightforward penalties were unsuccessful so Bognor resorted to the corner and the sustained pressure finally told as MoM Harding powered over for the decisive score.
So a disappointing first half with an uncharacteristic poor work ethic was made up for with a clinical, confident second-half display.
Bognor won two from two against very strong sides in pre-season and cannot wait for Saturday and Eastleigh’s visit.
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