What they said about Chichester’s famous day of rugby

Chichester RFC take the field for their play-off against Eton Manor Picture by Chris Hatton
Chichester RFC take the field for their play-off against Eton Manor Picture by Chris Hatton

Chichester are looking forward to life in rugby’s National three south next season after clinching promotion with a 25-16 play-off win over Eton Manor.

Here’s what CRFC official have had to say about Chichester’s play-off win and promotion...

Paul Colley, director of rugby:

The game had everything with all the sweat and tears of many years culminating in a thrilling comeback.

At half-time the chips were down. We had dominated possession but had not had the steel to get the crucial scores.

Eton Manor were everything I imagined and more, with tough, abrasive forwards who were very well drilled and a set of backs who tackled hard and in attack did the simple things well. With a very strong running right wing they were a real threat.

At half-time we had to have a frank and honest discussion that the opposition wanted it more than us and that was simply not good enough. We would need to show some real heart if we were to come back.

To a man they stepped up, but in particular I looked into the faces of Ben Polhill and Moses Kasujja. These Chichester warriors had been through thick and thin with me and epitomised the team spirit we have built here.

We lifted the intensity and really started to play; harnessing fantastic ball, the backs suddenly started to play the expansive game Rob Lawrence has been working on and the four-try tally highlighted our ability to play.

When the final whistle went it felt almost surreal: the pressure of making the right selection choices and preparing the side for the last few critical weeks of the season had been immense - only now could I relax.

Eton Manor gave their all with real team spirit and it was an honour for Chichester RFC to play them. They brought fantastic support, many of whom showed some traditional rugby values mixing and indeed singing in the bar afterwards.

It’s been an amazing season hard on the heels of three or four years of tremendous progress as this squad has slowly developed and matured.

There were simply too many standouts to name and too many people to thank - perhaps I might take a few weeks to reflect and put in writing.

At this stage I simply feel pride: pride in a job well done, pride in our players, our club, our supporters, our history.

The Observer asked them to be heroes - and they delivered.

Gareth Webb, President:

I joined Chichester Rugby Club in 1986 and played for 14 years at all levels - a confirmed ‘handbag-carrying’ back.

It has been a pleasure and an honour to be the president of the club for the past four years and witness the journey at close-hand to strive to be the best community club we can be.

The whole occasion on Saturday was a credit to not just a really talented squad of players but to all those who have supported the club over its long development to get this point. The coaches, sponsors, supporters, parents, match volunteers…you get the picture.

We treasure the traditions of rugby as a community amateur sports club but endeavour to deliver a professional experience from under-sixes to colts to senior rugby.

We take matters seriously on the pitch, but not ourselves off it. It’s quite simple really - our success on Saturday is because of the strength of friendship, teamwork and fun which keeps our club together and makes rugby the sport parents increasingly want their kids to play.

A great day saw a rollicking pre-match lunch where officials of both clubs and our generous supporters ate, drank and laughed together.

Both teams showed incredible commitment and skill to deliver a game of intense physical and emotional drama with an ending worthy of any soap opera. Both teams showed respect for each other and the officials after the final whistle and sat down together to eat, drink and sing loudly - if not in tune.

I would like to thank all those people who have contributed to club over the years to get us here. Please continue your support and bring new supporters - who knows what we can achieve in the future for our city?

Keith Martin, Chairman

What an achievement for a city the size of Chichester to host two National League clubs now that Chichester’s hockey and rugby teams have been promoted.

I have been involved with CRFC since 1974 and as chairman for the past 13 years. There have been many proud moments but this is the culmination of many years of hard work by so many people.

I would especially like to thank my director of rugby Paul Colley, who has overseen our rise to this position, and head coach Rob Lawrence, whose drive and coaching has inspired us to rise to this level.

I would also like to thank the group of coaches from our lower teams and Colts who play a massive role in supplying players to the first XV.

The hard work starts now. Clubs at this level have large budgets but we are determined not to spend above our means.

Ten of the starting squad were Chichester-educated players and it is important that we do not lose this core value. We are a city club.

We are grateful to all our sponsors but realise we have to look for new opportunities. If there are any individuals or businesses who would like to sponsor a National League rugby club, contact me at selseymartins@live.co.uk.

Please come and support us next season because we play a terrific brand of rugby.

Alan Bradford, Past President

I first joined CRFC in 1974 have played at all levels in the club, and have held various committee positions - the last one as president for ten years.

I have seen the club grow at all levels and the standard of rugby improve over the years. The game against Eton Manor was a major milestone in the club’s history. This win means we have moved up yet another level.

This will present challenges but the club is well placed to meet them.

We are so fortunate to have so many volunteers and supporters throughout the club - but I never expected to see such a crowd at Oaklands Park to support the first XV in this key game. Well over 1,000 attended, a really moving experience.