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Gravesend 24-23 Chichester
Only the doubter’s among the spectators would have thought that Gravesend’s 1st XV would come off the park without the winning points from today’s important clash, with league leaders Chichester that put the town lads on top of the table.
Opening their account in under two minutes, when the straight running of the front row pair, Marc Klus and Jamie Forsyth created the numbers out wide for Miki Zanirato and Matt Bressons to send the ball out to, the outcome was never in doubt.
With full back Temi Okenla in the line, it was the final pass to Tony Nolan that sent the wing-three-quarter in at the corner.
Gs started as they had the previous week, getting into the opposition twenty-two before being penalised and kicked back into their own half.
In fact for the first thirty minutes of the game it was the only way that Chichester could get there, as the way though on the ground was met by an iron strong steadfast defence.
Chi’s fly half Anscombe put the visitors on the scoreboard on eight minutes from the tee following yet another indiscretion from Gs but missed his second chance seven minutes later.
Gravesend’s power-house of a pack was in control at the set piece scrummage, and it was only a matter of time before they pushed the visiting pack back over their goal line where CJ Osazuwa touched-down at eight.
Thirty minutes played and Zanirato’s conversion took the lead forward to 12-3.
Over elaboration at times when inside their own twenty-two saw Gs put themselves under pressure instead of kicking to clear their line.
In defending this position, first Adam Aigbikhae was shown a yellow card, following this, Chichester were quick to score a try which Anscombe converted, then Klus was sent to the sin bin for ten minutes.
Another try while Gs were now down to thirteen players on the park as visiting full back Driscoll crossed out wide to put Chichester in front for the first time as the interval was called, 12-15.
Gravesend, starting the second half still down to thirteen, it was no surprise to see Chichester score another try out wide as the home defence was stretched.
Aigbokhae came back on as the conversion sailed past the uprights, but another penalty was added to the visitors score to extend the gap to 12-23 before Klus retook to the park.
With Gs back up to full strength there now seemed little doubt as to who would win this encounter, providing the play continued to be kept moving.
Miki Zanirato added two well struck penalties after a desperate Chichester defence resulted to any means to keep their line secure, and with twenty minute to play the score-line now read 18-23.
A of couple of “unseen” shirt tugs by the visiting defenders prevented the breakthrough that was on the cards, before eventually Chichester’s loose-head Belcher was sin-binned for collapsing, for the rest of the game.
Zanirato added a further successful penalty kick to narrow to 21-23, with just nine minutes left on the watch.
At the next occasion of a scrummage, the visitors decided that they had no-one qualified to play in the front row so the remainder of the scrummage were played uncontested.
Seventy three minutes played and Gs constant pressure earned it just reward, another penalty from the boot of the young scrum-half and the score was now 24-23.
More was still expected from the lively Gravesend XV as they continued to look for the tries and a bonus point, but this was not to be.
The four points from today’s game, with Chichester gaining yet another bonus point, albeit a losing one, elevated Gs to the top of the division, on merit, with just a single point between them.
Gravesend’s overall performance was yet again a little doubtful in the early exchanges, but the tenacity of Will Meddings and Ashley Moorey in the centre, the ability of Temi Okenla and Tony Nolan to appear from out of the mist was a great site to see.
There would have been many bruised and battered bodies returning to the south coast after today’s game as they suffered from running into Marc Klus, Charlie Cutting and one or the other of the Stevens boys.
All of this while enduring a mauling at the break-down from Adam Aigbokhae, Dave Books Smith and Remus Necular.
Gravesend’s game lost nothing in its momentum when they rang the changes that brought on the bench of Gary Gray, Tom Bird and Sox Stevens during the second half.
Interestingly of note, that although adequate technical areas were supplied, the referee allowed the visiting coaches and replacements to follow the play from the narrow side of the pitch without instructing them to get behind the barriers or return to the technical area.
That was the standard that followed throughout the afternoon.
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