Guildford completed a terrific comeback to win a bewildering see-saw game 37-31 and leaving Chichester in real relegation trouble in National three London south east.
The visitors had been 31-10 behind but scored 27 points without reply in the last 22 minutes. They were greatly helped by Chichester having only 14 men after two harsh yellow cards.
The visitors prospered from their forwards’ strength, especially their lineout and mauling work.
Chi had a very good 35 minutes before and after the interval when they cruised into their big lead but then lost the plot and the referee contributed to their downfall. He needs to think about his lack of communication to the Chi players and that sometimes hand signals are not enough when guidance is necessary, and he gave yellow cards for technical offences well away from the red zone.
It was all very disappointing for the Blues and with Southend winning in the last minute at Hertford, Chi are staring relegation in the face. They will have to win their last two games to have any chance of survival.
They came away from this crucial encounter with just two bonus points. Both teams scored five tries and 3 conversions but the Surrey men also kicked two penalties.
Chi were without Nick Blount, replaced by Martin O’Callaghan. Taff Davies returned at full-back and Danny Gray was at inside centre.
Guildford kicked off in sunshine and had most of the possession and territory for 25 minutes. A penalty hit the post and two more gave a lineout at the left corner. Quick service to the scrum-half saw him shoot through a gap to score a converted try.
They wheeled a scrum in midfield, the ball squirted out and prop Phil Veltom kicked into touch from an offside position. He was sinbinned.
Guildford’s backs showed their recycling skill as they attacked and Chi defended well. Chi finally got on to the front foot with Harry Seaman, Sam Renwick, Taff Davies and Jack Arden-Brown passing briskly. A penalty, lineout and two driving mauls resulted in a try for Veltom, converted by Taff Davies.
Guildford replied with a successful penalty to go 10-7 up. From another lineout, Richard Adams, Chris Johnson and Davies handled smartly with a last pass to Jack Maslen to score a fine try at the right corner. The conversion was missed.
Just before the break a thrust by Johnson from a scrum was held but another drive gave Henry Anscombe the chance to dive over, the conversion missing narrowly from the touchline. It was 17-10 to Chi after a varied 40 minutes.
Ben Robson came on as a replacement and scored with his first touch. Gray and Renwick had made ground and from the left corner lineout, Johnson and Veltom smashed to the line and the ball was released to Robson who took it at top speed on a good line for the bonus-point try converted by Davies.
Play was even for 15 minutes but there were ominous signs that Guildford’s driving maul was revving up. Chi attacked along the right touchline with Phi Dickin prominent at the lineout.
A penalty and a drive to the line saw O’Callaghan thump the ball down for the fifth try, converted by Davies.
Soon, though, the game was turned upside down. Guildford engaged their driving-maul tactics together with increasing dominance at the lineout. Their scrum had the nudge on Chi 20 metres out and loosehead prop Ben Deavall was yellow-carded although the scrum had not collapsed.
All hell broke loose as Guildford were fired up and stormed forward with mauls from halfway, strong shoves in scrums, reliable lineout ball and good handling by their backs.
Three tries were scored from short range using lineouts and mauls with extra strength after the yellow-card disruption in the Chi forwards. Two conversions meant it was 31-29 to Chi.
Soon after being back up to strength, the Blues were returned to 14 men when Adams was yellow-carded for a high tackle. A tackle on the head of Gray soon after went unpunished.
Guildford kicked a fairly-easy penalty after Chi had defended hard but possibly went offside – 32-31 to the visitors.
Chi attacked for the last time but the recycling broke down at a tackle and they were penalised once more. A final flowing move across the Guildford backs was the nail in the Blues’ coffin as the inevitable overlap gave an unconverted try in the left corner.
Guildford scorers were Hickey (2), Burden, Hooper and Garner. Hooper kicked 12 points.
This week Chi take the long road to Colchester. Hopefully they can pick themselves up from this setback – they know what is at stake.
Chichester: Belcher, Arden-Brown, Veltom, O’Callaghan, Dickin, A Davies, Bentall, Johnson, Anscombe, Adams, Seaman, Gray, Renwick, Maslen, T Davies, Deavall, Shepherd, Robson.
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