Chinnor’s lead at the top of National League Division Two South has been slashed to three points after a 30-22 defeat away at Bishop’s Stortford - just their second loss in 13 games this season.
After last week’s demolition of Clifton, Chinnor were looking for another big effort on the road at Stortford, a side they had never previously beaten.
Nathan Hannay came back into the second row and Junior Fatialofa replaced Bevon Armitage with Danny Barnes taking over the captaincy.
Stortford were determined to put last week’s disappointment at Redruth behind them and their fast and aggressive defence was critical in stemming the flow of quick, front foot ball, as Chinnor came out brightly and dominated the initial exchanges.
The first 10 minutes set the tone, as the home side made chop tackle after chop tackle in their own 22 to prevent the powerful visitors from crossing the try line despite wave after wave of attack.
Building on this stifling defence, Stortford worked their way steadily back up the pitch and were rewarded with the first points of the game through a penalty from scrum-half Tom Banks.
Chinnor continued to press but were frustrated by the home team’s defence and some handling errors.
The game continued at a high pace but it was Stortford again that scored, this time with an excellent try for Dan Elsom, Tom Banks added the conversion for a 10 point lead.
Straight from the restart, Chinnor swept onto the attack and a tremendous pickup off his toes by Bertie Hopkin set up a try for Alex Waddingham.
For the next 10 minutes, play see-sawed between two closely matched and highly committed sides as Banks’ penalty put the hosts 13-5 ahead at half-time.
A strong start to the second-half by Chinnor saw Hopkin go over for a converted try to get within one point, and straight from the restart, the visitors launched a sweeping attack, Callum Wilson touched down after a clever chip and chase on 53 minutes.
The visitors had turned an eight-point half-time deficit into a four-point lead, and all momentum appeared to have swung in Chinnor’s favour.
But things quickly changed when Jimmy Rea collected Tom Coleman’s grubber kick to score in the corner before Hugh Mitchell touched down Stortford’s third try.
Both conversions were missed but no such mistake was made five minutes later when Stortford’s Matt Tomlinson plunged over for their fourth try and a 30-17 lead.
With only 10 minutes to go and the game seemingly gone, Chinnor showed their fighting qualities when prop Jay Tyack launched a scything counter attack, ending in a bonus-point try for Tom Price.
With Old Elthamians’ bonus point defeat of Barnes, Chinnor are now just three points clear at the top with Worthing the visitors to Kingsey Road on Saturday.