In added time at the end of an amazing game, Cobham kicked a controversial penalty to snatch victory at Oaklands Park.
In a nightmare 16 minutes, Chichester had already lost a lead of 31-13 by conceding 19 points without reply. Credit goes to Cobham for a great comeback in a dramatic London one south game.
Chi had allowed too much space to the tricky visiting backs and the defence was fragile. Two bonus points ensured Blues are well clear of relegation but this day was very disappointing despite their four tries.
Chichester made five changes. Matt McLagan and Eddie Jenkinson came into the backs, with Joe Woods, Tyrese Makasi and Gareth Davies on the bench.
Cobham kicked off down the slope and immediately conceded a penalty. When the ball was returned to the Blues half a long pass across the 22m line was intercepted by Cobham’s fly-half for a simple score under the posts. Converted – 7-0 after only four minutes.
Chichester used the speed of their backs to advance up to the opposition 5m line but Cobham were soon back in the Chi half. An infringement within kicking range allowed the visitors to increase the score to 10-0.
Chi moved the ball across the backs to Rhys Thompson and on to Matt McLagan, running at pace. A long pass out wide to Eddie Jenkinson looked like a certain try but he couldn’t outpace the defender and Cobham conceded a penalty.
Chichester looked out of sorts with dropped passes, knock-ons and missed tackles. After 20 minutes an interception from Ed Bowden relieved the pressure and the subsequent Blues attack was halted illegally 5m from the try line. The referee produced a yellow card and Cobham were reduced to 14 men.
This seemed to settle Chichester nerves and they found confidence. A pass from Henry Anscombe allowed Charlie Wallace to break through the defence and give an inside pass to Chris Johnson for a try next to the posts – converted, 10-7.
With a couple of minutes left in the first half the visitors conceded a penalty on their 5m line in front of the posts. Thompson took a quick tap and touched down before the Cobham defence could react. Then Ryan Boulton recovered the ball and jinked past seven defenders before being taken to ground. Anscombe’s line fooled the defence and an offload found Shaun Baker for a run to the whitewash and try number three. The conversion made it 21-10 at the break.
Blues started the second half full of confidence and had Cobham under pressure for the first ten minutes before an Anscombe drop goal increased the lead.
Chichester were penalised for not releasing and the visitors added three points. Blues were immediately back on the attack and a pass from Baker from the breakdown found Johnson in front of the posts. He brushed aside the defender to touch down under the posts – it was 31-13 after the conversion.
Cobham hadn’t read the script and in the space of seven minutes had scored two converted tries to recover to 31-27. Blues’ woes were compounded when the referee produced a yellow card with 12 minutes left and sent the wrong player to the sin bin.
Cobham finally got the breakthrough with a ball out wide creating an overlap for inside centre Sanders to touch down. A missed conversion left the score 32-31 to the visitors.
Cobham were again reduced to 14 players when the referee produced another yellow card. Anscombe kicked the penalty and Blues led 34-32.
The referee indicated one minute remaining and Blues gathered the ball, going through the phases to run the clock down. Then disaster, with Chichester penalised in the ruck. Cobham’s fly-half coolly kicked the penalty from 35m out and the whistle went. Somehow Chichester had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
Chichester: Drayson, Cameron, Veltom, Boulton, Gibson, Bowden, Wallace, Johnson, Baker, Anscombe, McLagan, Thompson, Renwick, Jenkinson, Seaman, Makasi, Woods, Davies.
* Chichester travel to Kent this Saturday (April 6) for the last away fixture of the season against title contenders Sevenoaks (3pm).