Combe can’t match committed Chi.
Déjà vu. Same as last year, Combe away to Chichester, April spring sunshine, end of season, not much to play for, the home side galvanised, and roared on by their supporters.
There was a little more to it. Barring a miracle at Sutton and Epsom, Chichester would be relegated even if they won this last game of the league programme. Combe, fielding a much changed side due to injuries and availabilities, wanted a win or at least one point to cling on to third place in the league. As it transpired Chi put on a committed performance, belying their relegation status, and Combe played with end-of-termitis. That at the final whistle Chi were still relegated goes to show that apart from the top and very bottom this has been a very competitive league all season.
In excellent conditions Combe played the first half from the clubhouse end, up the slight slope and from the start tried to run it festival rugby style. But it was Chichester who got the scoreboard started. A penalty in front of Combe’s posts. Henry Anscombe for 3-0. Charlie Edwards, again at out-half, was kicking Combe into good positions. Ant Hitchcock had a short burst, Luke Bellinger came close, but the home side were defending with determination. That is until they were undone by an overthrow at their line-out on half-way. Lee Covington gathered, to Cameron Del Moro on a break up the middle, quick re-cycling and Charlie O’Sullivan was in support to take a short ball and score by the posts. No conversion. 3-5. Twenty-five minutes gone. Chi’s response was to force Combe back into the corner and from a line-out and drive, flanker Phil Dickin was at the back to touch down. No conversion. Combe’s response was immediate and took everyone by surprise. Charlie Edwards charged down an attempted clearance on Chi’s twenty-two, half gathered and collected but managed to guide it to Jimi Stanford who was in close support and he scampered in for Combe’s second. Charlie Edwards added the points for Combe to take a first half lead at 8-12. Two scores from two Chi mistakes. Combe’s other efforts in attack were being held by the home defence. Still, the slope might be in Combe’s favour for the second period, and there was a bit of wind picking up.
The second half though was all Chi. They pegged Combe back into their own half, indeed a lot of play was spent in Combe’s twenty-two. Combe rarely broke out, and for the whole half never really looked like adding any more scores. Chi were growing in confidence as they put together long passages of play and possession. Combe were beginning to creak. Tim Cook was over by the posts after a surge up the middle. Henry Anscombe added the conversion. The momentum was all with Chi. Five minutes later, after a period of sustained pressure, skipper Jack Bentall squeezed in at the right corner, for another. No conversion, 20-12. Last quarter, and Combe despite various efforts are still stuck in their own half. Chi have probably done enough, and will have finished their season with a flourish, and well-deserved win. For Combe, not quite the end they might have hoped for.
That’s it until September, when it starts up all over again.
Westcombe Park XV: M. Roddick; T. Gray, C. del Moro, A. Hitchcock, B. Saffery; C. Edwards, A. Edwards; J. Stanford, J. Bonner, J. Forsyth, T. Clarke, C. O’Sullivan, D. Fox, L. Covington, L. Bellinger.
Subs: S. Perry, D. Vallely, J. Kenward.
Match reporter - Bruce Mackenzie.