NATIONAL 2 SOUTH
CHINNOR avoided the drop after beating Exmouth 32-12 at Kingsey Road and results elsewhere going their way.
Although they did not play consistently well, the hosts gained a bonus-point victory, with captain and No 8 Liam Gilbert scoring two tries.
Chinnor, however, had to win and then hope one of Launceston, London Irish Wild Geese or Dings Crusaders lost to avoid relegation to National 3.
It looked bleak at half-time with all those three leading, but Wild Geese ultimately went down 40-24 at Ampthill, who secured a play-off spot.
This was a tense end to a topsy turvy season for Chinnor, which saw head coach Craig Chalmers quit before they had played a match.
Four wins from four at the start of the campaign took them into second place before rampant inconsistency set in.
In most seasons, Chinnor’s final tally of 65 points would have been comfortably enough to survive, but comfort was never something they achieved, even after bringing in Matt Williams as director of rugby.
This performance was Chinnor’s season in microcosm – ranging from the dynamic and brilliant to the sloppy and naive – but it was too much for relegated Exmouth.
It was also a final game for player-coach Andrew Smith – the second row retiring at the age of 45.
Chinnor settled their nerves with a try on seven minutes from fly half Will Millett, created by wing George Blewitt’s run and Gilbert’s quick hands.
But a misfiring line-out and two butchered chances, with Millett and scrum half Jones throwing horrible passes, meant it was still 5-0 approaching the half hour.
The match was effectively won with three tries in the next six minutes.
Wing Leo Fielding latched on to Millett’s grubber kick to touch down, then Gilbert struck twice.
Gilbert’s chargedown allowed him a clear run to the line on 29 minutes before motoring through for try No4 and finishing both with Chris Ashton-style ‘splashes’.
Millett converted all three, but the half ended on a low note as Chinnor lost possession at a ruck on halfway and Exmouth wing Richard Bright raced in, fly half George Meadows converting.
Blewitt had a try disallowed for a forward pass on 43 minutes and Chinnor lost focus.
Bright bagged his second try in the 53rd minute after some good recycling from scrum half Garry Hooper.
Chinnor regrouped and added penalties from Millett on 58 and 65 minutes.
They were then able to play out the final quarter of an hour without any real danger and by full-time, news of Ampthill’s win meant home players and fans could celebrate.
Chinnor: Mountford, G Blewitt, Goode, Barnes, Fielding, Millett, Jones (Hall 75), Winpenny, Pickett, Cano (Vickers 72), Kruzychi (Betts 55), Smith (Aiono 65), Tibbatts, Townsend (Hastings 72), Gilbert (capt).
Referee: P Davies (RFU).