Chichester edged to a just about deserved 8-7 victory as the Honourable Artillery Company made their first ever visit to Oaklands Park in London One South.
It was Chi’s fourth one point home victory of the season – believed to be the club all-time record.
HAC gave a good account of themselves despite their modest league position.
As they warmed up on a soft pitch, a couple of big guns in their pack were noted. In summary, after being under the cosh for 20 minutes during the first half, Chi raised their game and went 8-0 ahead after the interval, only for HAC to reply with a converted try. The last minutes were tense.
Chi were forced to make changes from their last game. John Lindsay was at lock and Ryan Spriggs in the back row. Fijian soldier Matereti Waganisau made his home debut at No.8. Gareth Davies moved to fly half and Toby Golds to the right wing. On the bench Ben Robson returned from injury and Mark Giddings was welcomed back after long absence.
Chi started well and for ten minutes looked sharp with good handing phases into the enemy 22. But the Artillery boys then went into action and besieged Chi’s fortress.
They pounded away but Chi were angry tigers in defence and the covering and tackling were excellent.
Matt McLagan did have to save the day when he dramatically caught up and nailed an opponent as he was about to score at the posts.
They finally conceded penalties and a yellow card in the red zone and, after failing to get over the line, HAC opted to take one but missed badly.
Chi broke out after their seven-man pack heaved and won a scrum. They threatened to score for the first time but mistakes undid them and a counter by HAC resulted in a rolling ball over the Chi try line which was hastily touched down for a drop out. A good sign for Chi was some penetration by Rhys Thompson and McLagan, but half-time arrived without the scoreboard being troubled.
Chi had a pep talk and raised their game. Lindsay broke off from a scrum and made ground after Nick Blount soared in the lineout to get the maul going. The pack turned the screw and, after several thrusts to the line were just held, Tom Blewitt kicked a penalty.
Chi went 8-0 ahead after a very high kick by Thompson led to a scrum and quick ball out to the backs. Slick hands opened the gap for McLagan to beat a despairing tackle and dive across at the Vultures Corner flag but the difficult conversion was missed.
Shaun Baker was almost over but for a knock on after another Chi attack started by a huge line kick by Blewitt.
HAC hit back and after several well controlled phases, they put their powerful prop over at the post for a converted try to narrow the score to 8-7.
Thompson broke through again to feed McLagan again but he was tackled short of the right corner. The HAC captain urged his troops to win the day and they tried hard.
They lost a good position due to a forward pass and Chi were relieved to win a penalty at a scrum which enabled them to clear the danger. They won a long-range penalty in the last minute and decided to take it, but it drifted wide.
The four league points gained took Chi to a total of 50 for the season and a solid eighth place out of 14.
Man of the match was Ben Deavall.
Chi squad: Drayson, Makasi, Deavall, Lindsay, Blount, O’Callaghan (capt.), Spriggs, Waganisau, Baker, Davies, McLagan, Thompson, Blewitt, Rowland, Golds, Giddings, Magda and Robson.