Chichester followed up their fantastic win against London one south leaders Medway with another bonus-point success in front of their own fans – beating Maidstone 44-26.
It might have looked on paper like being an easier home match with the visitors bottom of the league, but the Blues know everyone in the league can be competitive.
To reinforce that Maidstone had fairly comfortably beaten Brighton the week before – and with Brighton beating Chichester recently the Kent side arrived in confident mood.
Chi had to make a few changes and two players from last year’s Colts team made their debuts. On the bench was Will Prior and starting on the right wing was Alex Margarson.
The game started in bright sunshine with the home side quickly on the attack. The ball fizzed out wide and pacy open-side Charlie Wallace surged over with only a few minutes on the clock. The conversion was missed – 5-0.
The Blues were playing at a cracking pace with Nick Blount collecting the kick-offs and the backs breaking well. Quick transfer saw Tom Hutchin entering the line well at full-back to put lightning-fast winger Cam Hopkins away on the outside. He gassed past the defence to score the Blues’ second with only ten minutes gone. Hutchin slotted the extras – 12-0.
The home side perhaps took their foot off the gas, and fell foul of the referee’s interpretations. A number of decisions went against the Blues and the tide turned.
Maidstone rallied and through their forwards kept things tight. A series of drives led to their first foray into the Blues 22 for a penalty try and yellow card against the home team. This looked incredibly harsh.
The stunned Chi team knew they would have to rally quickly and improve their discipline.
With the momentum and the man advantage, the red and whites were seizing the game. The penalties kept coming and the Blues had their backs against the wall.
Another series of tight drives and a Maidstone line-out deep in blue territory brought another try – 12-14. The pattern continued with a carbon-copy piece of play and Chi conceded another try to trail 21-12.
The Blues regrouped with skipper Jack Bentall carrying hard and getting over the gain line, and with Lynch pulling the strings, Sam Renwick was starting to cause Maidstone some real problems, carving some big holes.
Hopkins again showed his wheels to ghost over out wide and another conversion meant the deficit was 21-19.
The Blues were clicking into gear, with forwards winning excellent lineout and getting the upper hand in the scrums and the backs looking increasingly threatening.
Chris Johnson was proving a juggernaut with ball in hand, bouncing defenders away, gaining vital front-foot ball and leaving away defenders strewn across the pitch.
Chi finished the half with great inter-passing, giving skipper Bentall a great line to go over for Chi’s bonus-point try.
This was quickly followed up by ever-present forward Martin O’Callaghan to track the play and smash over wide left. At the break it was 32-21.
The second half was slightly frustrating as the Blues made some simple errors, but they were much more disciplined in their play and never really let Maidstone back in the match.
Young Prior, now in in the front row, showed his promise with some fantastic work in the loose and along with Joe Woods, Tom Belcher and Sam Drayson, really started to dominate the scrum exchanges.
Johnson signed off another powerhouse display with two tries, the first giving the Blues a 39-21 lead.
Maidstone never gave up and through another forward surge retrieved another score – 39-26. But Johnson had the last word as a tiring defence buckled with the big No8 going over again.
Scott Ashley, Chichester’s head coach, said: “There were some good bits but I’m a bit frustrated to be honest after last week’s excellent performance. But Maidstone were a handful and we will work on some areas at training this week.”
Chi are away to Old Colfeians this week then on December 16 play Tottonians in the last game of the year. All support welcome as Chi look to stay on the league leaders’ heels as they enter the new year.
Chichester: Drayson, Belcher, Woods, Blount, Lindsay, O’Callaghan, Wallace, Johnson C, Seaman, Lynch, Margarson, Bentall, Renwick, Hopkins, Hutchin. Reps: Prior, Johnson D, Heber.