Medway travelled down to West Sussex on Saturday to take on a Chichester side lying 8th in the league with 10 wins. Chichester are renowned for being tough to beat on their ground and so it proved. The game kicked off on a good Oaklands Park playing surface with the home side playing with the breeze at their back. With only 2 minutes gone Chichester scored. Some weak defence combined with some good handling skills saw them scamper over out wide for an unconverted try. On 10 minutes Medway responded. A scrum penalty was won on the half way line. Dan Harvey kicked in the corner and Bill Sandison combined with Jordan Stubbington to secure the ball. The Medway forwards combined and drove over the line securing the try through Captain Tom Beaumont. Harvey converted and Medway led 5-7. Despite playing into the wind Medway started to dominate possession and go through the phases. A penalty for not releasing at the breakdown saw James Dance tap and go and get behind the home defensive line. With Chichester scrambling the ball was fed to Max Bullock who changed the direction of the attack and fed Antony Clement who ran a superb short line to score near the posts. Harvey converted to make the score 5-14. Medway were then reduced to 14 men with lock Jordan Stubbington sent to the bin for transgressing on the Medway line. Chichester opted for the line out and after a secondary effort eventually scored an unconverted try in the corner. 10-14 The re-start did not go the required 10 metres and Chichester put the ball behind Medway. Although the ball was recovered the clearance kick failed to make touch and Chichester ran it back with good handling to score again. This time the conversion was good and Chichester led 17-14. With Medway restored to a full compliment Chichester were still pressing to improve their lead. Medway defended their line well forced the turnover retained the ball and kicked it out to end the half behind.
The second half kicked off and Medway gained early possession. They went through some phases gaining good ground with Tom Beaumont, Jordan Stubbington, Bill Humphrey, Dan Huntley and Bill Sandison all very prominent. A penalty was won on the Chichester 10 metre line and Dan Harvey kicked it to level the scores. The next 15 minutes was a pretty even affair both sides trying to impose themselves on the other. That was until Medway had their second player sent to the sin bin. James Dance was penalised for a breakdown offence. The versatile Sam Garofalo moved into the scrum half role. Chichester opted for the line out but improved defence with Christian Hechter proving a nuisance to the opposition in the lineout held them at bay. Medway replaced Bill Humphrey with Ciaran Slater, with Jack Nickalls having replaced Ross Cooley at half time. Both players worked hard with their limited game time. On 70 minutes Chichester re-took the lead. A kick in behind the Medway defence saw the ball re-gathered by the home side for them to score an unconverted try out wide. The last 10 minutes was all Medway. This on the back of a dominant scrum which had seen Ross Cooley, Bill Sandison, Jack Nickalls and Alex O’Leary dominate their counterparts throughout the game. With time up Medway eventually managed to secure a scrum under the home posts as the last play. Medway drove for the line. After 3 pens for illegal scrummaging the referee gave a yellow card to the home front row player. Medway opted for the scrum. Again and again Medway drove for the winning try but the home side transgressed each time. A second yellow was issued to another front row player. Controversially and to the amazement of both the home and away supporters the referee did not award the penalty try instead the scrums then became uncontested. Another penalty followed. Medway were forced to use their obvious numerical advantage and the ball was moved wide for Alfie Orris to touch down for the try and level the score. The conversion hit the post and the match finished a draw. The supporters of both sides were treated to a real see saw game where both sides looked to play good rugby. Although Medway dominated at the end Chichester also has their own periods where they had opportunities to add to their score when Medway were twice down to 14 men.
Coach Taff Gwilliam said “This is always a tough place to go and Chichester’s home form belies their league position. There are no easy games in this league which recent results testify to”. When asked about the scrums at the end of the game said “The referee made decisions as he saw it and we have to accept that. He is a good referee”.