It's a bonus: Chichester push Westcombe Park all the way
Chichester pushed leaders Westcombe Park all the way and had the consolation of coming home with two bonus points after a 33-29 loss.
After a couple of very wet weeks the weather improved just in time to make this game playable.
The Blues had a challenging week with training disrupted by the weather and seven changes needed to the team that beat London Cornish by a point.
Materati Waqanisau made his debut in the pack, Cam Hopkins, Rhys Thompson and Taff Davies returned in the backs with Baz Magda, Cam McKenzie-Lowrie and debutant Pete Farrow on the bench.
Chichester started strongly and Combe spent much of the first 20 minutes pinned back behind their 22m line. The home side responded with their backs looking extremely dangerous.
A Chi interception prevented a certain try but Combe got themselves on the scoreboard after 25 minutes with a chip over the top that was collected and touched down in the corner. Conversion missed.
Four minutes later Combe stole the ball at the lineout and it found its way to Dan Hamilton, who scored by the posts. Converted for 12-0.
A number of Combe infringements, after a series of pick and goes, gave Taff Davies the opportunity to put three points on the scoreboard.
The last six minutes of the half were full of action and Hamilton went over again for Combe’s third try, after which a conversion made it 19-3.
Chichester made two substitutions and the home side were reduced to 14 men by a yellow card. From a lineout the ball was passed to Rhys Thompson who broke through the Combe defence with a lovely angled run to score. Converted, 19-10 at the break.
The half-time talk seemed to galvanise Chi, who tore into Combe using their numerical advantage in a series of lineouts and drives by the forwards.
Pete Farrow dived over from short range to score Chichester’s second try and Taff Davies’ conversion bounced over off the crossbar.
Five minutes later Chi used the same play but this time Harry Seaman darted across the line to score. Conversion missed but the visitors led 22-19.
Chichester’s lead was shortlived. The referee produced his yellow card and it was Chi’s turn to lose a man. On 54 minutes Hamilton crossed the whitewash again for his hat-trick (and eighth try in two matches), converted for 26-22.
Combe scored another converted try and extended their lead to 33-22. However, Chichester don’t give up easily and put the home team under pressure, earning a penalty.
Chi kicked for the corner and from the lineout drove across the line with Joe Woods touching down for the bonus-point try. An excellent conversion from Taff Davies out wide made it 33-29 with five minutes left.
Combe came back with the kitchen sink but Blues’ defence held firm. One final chance to secure a last gasp victory was snuffed out and the referee ended a pulsating game that saw the league leaders tested and Chichester leave Kent with two bonus points.
Paul Colley, director of rugby, said: “The game highlighted the progression we have made in recent weeks and while we are disappointed to lose we pushed a good side very close.”
Man of the match Ben Polhill on his 41st birthday, exemplifying everything that is Chichester.
Chichester: Drayson, Makasi, Woods, Blount, O’Callaghan, Spriggs, Polhill, Waqanisua, Seaman, G Davies, Hopkins, Baker, Thompson, Rowland, O Davies, Magda, Farrow, McKenzie-Lowrie.