In the aftermath of Storm Emma and the ‘Beast from the East’ the pitch was in remarkably good condition and would allow some running rugby.
Chichester avenged their defeat earlier in the season, with a bonus point win, scoring four tries and three conversions to Brighton’s three tries one conversion and two penalties.
Brighton left Oaklands Park with a losing bonus point but will be disappointed not to have snatched a win in the final minutes of the game when they had a man advantage.
Chichester made four changes to the team that beat Chobham last time out with Simon Pinhorne replacing John Lindsey in the 2nd row, Tom Hutchin at fullback and Tom Belcher and Jack Bentall on the bench.
Chichester kicked off playing down the slope and immediately had Brighton on the ropes. Having stolen the ball at Brighton’s first lineout play progressed across the pitch until Chichester were awarded a penalty for an infringement. Harry Seaman kicked for the corner and from the resulting lineout the Chichester pack headed for the try line.
Brighton infringed and Seaman kicked for the corner. Once again the pack headed purposefully towards the try line with Joe Woods darting across the whitewash to dot down. The referee was not convinced and from the subsequent 5m scrum Chris Johnson took on the Brighton defence before offloading to Martin O’Callaghan to score under the posts.
Brighton attacked from the restart and Blues found themselves defending their own try line. What looked like a certain try was intercepted by Tom Hutchin who headed off down the pitch with Brighton’s backs in pursuit.
Isolated, Brighton turned over the ball and a delicate 35 metre chip and run was touched down just centimetres from the dead ball line. Conversion missed. 7-5. As the game settled down it became evident that the packs were fairly evenly matched but both teams were having problems holding on to the ball as play was interrupted for numerous knock-ons.
After 27 minutes Brighton had a player yellow carded and Chichester raised their game. From a scrum to the right of the posts Adrian Lynch threw a long pass to Sam Renwick, stretching the Brighton defence. Renwick found Toby Golds who shrugged off a desperate tackle from the Brighton winger to score in the corner. Conversion missed. 12-5. From the restart Blues were penalised for not releasing the ball and Brighton slotted an easy penalty. 12-8. Disaster struck once again from the restart and the cruellest of bounces wrong footed the Blues defence for the Brighton winger to run on and collect the ball for a simple try. Converted. 12-15. Half time and Chichester with a lot contemplate having conceded 10 points in less than 90 seconds.
After only seven minutes of the second half Brighton were once again reduced to 14 players after an infringement in the lineout. Hutchin kicked for the corner and from the lineout powerful carries from Jack Arden-Brown, Chris Johnson and Tom Belcher gained precious yards allowing Lynch to release Ben Robson for the third try. Converted. 19 - 15. From the restart Johnson gathered the ball and Lynch cleared upfield.
The Brighton winger and full back collided in an attempt to catch the ball which fell kindly in front of Jack Bentall, who had come off the bench on return from injury. Bentall’s delicate side foot, which would have not looked out of place on a football pitch, beat the recovering defence and popped up nicely for Robson to gather and touch down under the posts. Robson’s second try in 2 minutes and Chichester’s bonus point secured. Converted. 26-15.
Just as it looked like Chichester might capitalise on their lead an infringement in front of the posts provided Brighton with a simple penalty kick. 26 - 18. For the next 20 minutes neither team threatened to score as the ball moved from one side of the pitch to the other, punctuated with handling errors. With time ticking away Chichester were penalised in the scrum, providing Brighton with another simple penalty kick which was missed.
This seemed to spur on the visitors and with seven minutes left on the clock, and the Chichester try line under siege, Blues were reduced to 14 players. Brighton opted for the 5m metre scrum and four quick passes created the overlap for the winger to score their third try. Conversion missed. 26 - 23. Blues won the ball at the restart and proceeded run the clock down by going through the phases. When the ball was eventually lost the whole Chichester team were resolute in defence containing Brighton in their own half. Brighton were awarded a penalty on the final play of the game but wasted it with a poor kick to touch and lineout. Full time. 26 - 23.
Chichester squad: Deavall, Arden-Brown, Woods, Pinhorne, Blount, O’Callaghan, Wallace (capt.), Johnson, Seaman, Lynch, Golds, Robson, Renwick, Hamilton-Fox, Hutchin, Belcher, Davies and Bentall.
Next week Chichester travel to London Cornish for the match rearranged from the 3rd of March. Kick-off is at 12:30 to accommodate the England v Ireland game.