Chichester’s first home game in five weeks was a memorable one that ended in a narrow 37-34 win over Old Colfeians in London one south.
Relegation-threatened Old Colfeians gave the Blues a severe test and left with the consolation of two bonus points.
Chichester scored four converted tries and three penalties to Old Colfeians’ four converted tries and two penalties.
The Blues made two changes with Martin O’Callaghan in the pack and Josh Goodwin on the bench. Ben Heber started on the wing with Joe Woods and Ed Grinstead dropping to the bench.
Chichester found themselves under the cosh from the kick-off. Having knocked on the Chichester pack found themselves heading backwards. The referee signalled a free ball but Old Colfeians didn’t need any assistance and an interchange between the centres breached the Chichester defence for a converted try between the posts.
From the restart the Colfeians’ clearance kick went straight out giving Chichester a lineout on the 22m line. There was an infringement in the ruck and Chichester were awarded a penalty in front of the posts which they converted.
A clearance from Harry Seaman found space behind Old Colfeians’ defence. Heber raced away and caught the full-back inside the opposition 22. Old Colfeians attempted to run the ball out of defence but knocked on to give Chichester the scrum.
Old Colfeians were penalised in front of the posts for not rolling away and the penalty made it 7-6.
Soon Chichester conceded a penalty in front of the posts for not releasing.
From the restart Chichester applied pressure. Ten phases later Aaron Davies burst through the Old Colfeians’ defence, making 25 yards, before being brought down. Quick ball from Seaman found Ben Robson, whose pass to Charlie Wallace created an overlap for Jack Hamilton-Fox to dot down in Vulture’s Corner. It was converted for 13-10.
Old Colfeians regrouped and threw everything at Chichester. Blues’ defence absorbed the pressure until the inside centre found a gap in the defence to score close to the posts.
Going behind appeared to spur Chichester on and they put the opposition under sustained pressure. Finally, a clever offload from Jack Arden-Brown created space for Aaron Davies to run through and score under the posts. The conversion made it 20-17 at the break.
Playing down the slope Chichester took the attack to the opposition. After seven minutes there was an infringement close to the try line and the referee produced a yellow card reducing Old Colfeians to 14 men.
Chichester opted for the try and Chris Johnson picked up the ball and dived across to score.
Old Colfeians soon found an attacking opportunity which resulted in an infringement by Blues.
For the next ten minutes Old Colfeians were kept in their own half as Blues looked to increase the score until the referee produced the yellow card for a high tackle, leaving Chichester a man down.
Old Colfeians made use of the advantage and within three minutes had their third try to make it 27-27.
The advantage was shortlived. Robson, Sam Renwick and Hamilton-Fox combined to provide a pass to Heber on the touchline. The young speedster beat the first man, cut inside and was tackled just short of the try line. Old Colfeians infringed, the referee produced the third yellow card and both teams were down to 14.
Davies won a lineout. Heber was stopped short and Josh Goodwin, on as a replacement for Seaman, fed Charlie Wallace to dive over for Chichester’s fourth try and a bonus point.
Old Colfeians upped the tempo and a Chichester pass was intercepted for a simple run-in for Old Colfeians’ fourth try and a bonus point – 34-34. Whilst the Old Colfeians’ fly-half was converting the try, Chi captain Jack Bentall was rallying his team. At the restart Old Colfeians conceded a penalty 25m out. Tom Hutchin stepped up and slotted it through the uprights to make it a perfect seven from seven.
Old Colfeians attacked but the ball was knocked on after a great tackle from Ed Grinstead and Chichester cleared. Then Chichester’s pack took the ball against the head and Goodwin kicked to touch and end the game.
Chichester: Deavall, Arden-Brown, Belcher, O’Callaghan, Blount, Davies, Wallace, Johnson C, Seaman, Hutchin, Robson, Bentall (capt.), Renwick, Heber, Hamilton-Fox, Woods, Grinstead and Goodwin.
* Chichester’s final game of the season is away to Sevenoaks on Saturday (3pm).
Head coach Paul Colley praised Chichester for signing off their home rugby season with a display of great character that earned a 37-34 win over Old Colfeians.
The Blues’ victory cemented their fourth place in London one south after it was sealed with a successful penalty a few minutes from the end, to gain the full five points.
The Colfes arrived in 12th place, knowing a win could have taken them out of the relegation zone, and they were playing for their lives.
Colley said: “I think we at times tried to play too much rugby when we were ahead and controlling the match and we tried to play a little bit of sevens.
“I think the weather encouraged the guys to run around a lot, but we couldn’t quite shut the game down as well as we could have done – but there were some really good bits and they were playing for their relegation lives, so they gave us a hell of a game.
“The result is good but I’m a little bit disappointed because I think we could have put the game to bed a bit earlier.
“We showed great character to stick at it. they were playing for everything because if they had won, that would have been a big step for them avoiding relegation.
“They were always going to come back, they weren’t going to give up, we should have just shot the game better, but we stuck at it and it was a good win in the end.”
It was Chi’s 16th win this season and their tenth at home. The West Sussex side are some way off second place, the promotion play-off spot, but have been hot on the heels of the leading pack all campaign.
Colley said: “We’ve got a new coaching structure, so it’s taken a little bit of time for them to settle in with our playing squad, so we’re looking to develop and kick on from here.
“We’ve shown that at times we can be up in the best two in the league, but we haven’t been consistent enough, so we’ll try to build on that and build on our squad strength and go again next year.”
Next season, Colley wants to play a good style of rugby but insists he will not be disappointed if they don’t get promoted.
Colley added: “I don’t have the ambition that we have to try and get promoted. What I want us to be is the best we can be and if that’s good enough, then that will be good enough.
“We haven’t got the ambition that we are only ever going to push to play National League and we want to play good rugby – and that’s what we saw against Old Colfeians.”