The fear of relegation is known to be a very strong motivator. Chiltern proved this at Oaklands Park with a heroic performance in a pulsating and exciting game with their winning try against Chichester scored in the last play before the final whistle.
They played extremely well and came back from 22-18 down to snatch the victory - 25-22 the score - from the Blues. They had thrown the kitchen sink at the Chi defence for 15 minutes and their determination was amazing.
Chi helped them technically with their decision not to kick an easy penalty, their lost possession from misfiring lineouts and losing a man to the sin-bin five minutes before the end.
But overall Chiltern deserved it for their commitment and organisation, playing much better than in the corresponding fixture on their turf which Chi won by two points.
Perhaps it was significant that only four Chiltern men appeared in both games.
Chi welcomed back Danny Gray at fly-half and Richard Adams on the bench. Alex Marsh moved to outside centre and Andy Gray was at No8.
It was dry, bright and chilly and the visitors were quick out of the blocks, running well before a Danny Gray tackle stopped their progress down the left wing.
Chi opened up with the backs handling and Tom Polhill set up good rucking position, forcing a penalty. Marsh was on target for a 3-0 lead.
Chiltern replied quickly with a maul towards the line, a neat inside pass and flanker Bartlett touching down. The conversion was missed.
Chi got into their stride with lovely long passes by Gray while Leon Driscoll, Toby Golds and Marsh made good ground. A penalty was sent to the right corner, a lineout catch by Phil Dickin was followed by two drives and a try for hooker Joe Shopland. A missed conversion meant the Blues led 8-5.
Chi had to defend again with a solid tackle by Marsh. The Chi scrum was feeling the pressure and the lineout disrupted. Tom Jackson displayed a traditional killer tackle below the knees before Ed Durkin tapped a penalty to launch an attack but the last pass went into touch.
Chiltern missed a penalty after a half-break in the centre. They pressed again and although the ball was cleared it was regained and the impressive Bartlett went past invisible tackles and danced under the posts. It was converted by scrum-half Thompson, who added a penalty soon after to give his team a 15-8 advantage.
Chi were stung and went back with confident handling but Jackson’s kick forward went dead. Golds tried to penetrate from full-back and Shopland burst 25m but too fast for support.
After the break, Chi restarted badly, a penalty against them for crossing 35 metres out from their line put away by Thompson.
Hard-working Andy Gray broke two tackles and the move was carried on by Tom Belcher. Awarded penalties, they went to the right corner but the drive was stopped and a Chiltern man sin-binned.
An excellent steal by Ken Dowding in midfield led to Chi hammering the Chiltern defence at Vultures’ Corner. The defence held stoutly against Chris Johnson, Phil Veltom and Shopland but the drive finally put Belcher over – with a very good conversion by Marsh making it 18-15 to the Blues.
Chi were at last on top and the visiting defence continued to be tested. However when Chi were awarded a penalty right in front of the posts the went for the try instead and the move by the backs with a cross-kick by Gray failed.
Belcher, Veltom and the two Grays linked and from a penalty and lineout Belcher gave the pass to lock Peter Meachin to dive over for his first try for the first XV and a 22-18 lead.
It was vital for Chi to keep this momentum but determination was etched on the faces of the Chiltern players and they surged on to the attack. They began a battering in the Chi 22.
They camped 15m out, starting multi phases and recycling against the Chi defence manning the barricades. Then it was five-metre scrums and their backs being knocked back just in time.
Bodies flew all over the place and twice Chi manged to clear to touch on the 22 but then gave the ball back at the lineouts. Then calamity when Tom Polhill received a yellow card for what seemed to be a reasonable chest tackle that the referee decided had been too high.
Chi held on bravely with 14 men as the attacking waves continued. But Chiltern would not be denied and their full-back Chris Jack joined the line to take advantage of the extra space and broke through to crash across and win the game. The conversion from wide succeeded and the whistle blew.
This week Chi travel 150 miles to Bury St Edmunds to play the league leaders, who they beat at Oaklands Park. All support welcome, with room on the coach.
CHICHESTER: Dowding, Shopland, Veltom, Dickin, Lindsay, Johnson, B Polhill, A Gray, Durkin, Gray, Jackson, T Polhill, Marsh, Driscoll, Golds, Belcher, Meachin, Adams.