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Phil Chesters is quick again after almost dying

Phil ChestersPhil Chesters, Ealing’s indestructible try-machine, will not forget Saturday March 30, 2013, in a hurry – it was the day he almost died.

National League rugby’s most prolific scorer had added six touchdowns to his astonishing personal haul in a 62-7 victory at Sedgley Park before returning to London to enjoy an evening with friends.

But, suddenly, life took a near-fatal twist when he was hit by a car.

Chesters found himself in intensive care at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, with doubts over his immediate wellbeing. Playing rugby was the least of his worries as surgeons set to work on repairing a fractured skull, broken jaw and various shoulder and rib injuries.

Chesters survived. And he completed a heart-warming recovery recently by turning out for newly-promoted Ealing in their first ever Championship match against London Scottish, notching his 170th try in four-and-a-bit seasons with the club.

A sports injury specialist by trade, Chesters understands better than anyone the potential implications of his accident. He has now spoken for the first time about the horrific road smash that almost ended his rugby career.

“I was so injured at the time that I didn’t find out a lot about it until afterwards,” Chesters told The Rugby Paper. “The driver got arrested and things are still going on there, but my head injury was the main one and I was in hospital for a week.

“Potentially, it was quite serious, but I don’t want to over-dramatise it and I’m fine now.

“After that, I went home to my parents’ place in Salisbury, where I was recovering for a couple of months. I was pretty much bed-ridden to begin with and the head injury meant I felt tired very quickly and couldn’t do much.

“It took a while to get on my feet. But gradually I got walking again and started to do more and more each day. It was a case of just building up my strength again and it was always on my mind whether I’d play rugby again.”

Chesters was in no doubt that he wanted to play on, but admits it was touch and go before he was finally given the all-clear to resume.

He explained: “You get told things by certain people but I was quite fortunate to see a specialist who deals with head injuries. He laid down a time-frame for trying to get me back.

“At first, I did conditioning work by cycling and rowing, then gradually got back out running. But I didn’t have any contact work until August. That had to be built up.

“Ealing have been brilliant and I was so pleased to make it back for the opening game. I was gutted to miss the final month of last season and all the celebrations.

“Promotion to the Championship is what the club had been striving for and I’ve always wanted to play at the highest level I can. I was very keen to get back involved.”

Chesters’ try-scoring feats include an incredible 70 touchdowns in 27 league matches during Ealing’s victorious National Two South campaign of 2010-11.

He averages 42.5 tries per season over the last four years, equating to one try every 48 minutes.

Ealing’s step up in class means Chesters is unlikely to maintain that amazing record and last week’s 79-9 thrashing at Rotherham pointed to tough times ahead.

But he is confident the side can adapt, pointing to how recently promoted sides like Jersey and London Scottish have come to terms with the Championship.

“Rotherham was obviously a disappointing result,” Chesters said.  “But looking at the last couple of years we know promoted teams don’t really get going until five or six weeks in. We’re learning every week.”

NEALE HARVEY

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