Horsham win miracle game to set up end of season climax
By Richard Ordidge
The 100 hundred pointer
Old Colfeians 38-62 Horsham
London 2 South East
Saturday 30th March
Match report by Nathan Jervis
Horsham's blistering run of form continued with a 38-62 win away at Old Colfeians notching up their ninth successive league win. The hosts had already secured league and cup wins over the Green and Whites earlier in the season, and with the visitors not having won at Horn Park before, yet requiring a victory in their pursuit of second place and a promotion play off spot, the pressure was on.
What then followed was possibly the most remarkable match in the history of Horsham Rugby Club. Against top class opposition who are through to the National Semi Final of the Intermediate Cup the writing appeared to be on the wall when Horsham found themselves 24-7 down after 23 minutes only to then score 55 points without reply in an amazing comeback full of power, pace and precision.
The weather was balmy. The beer was abundant. It was Barry's birthday. The scene was set for what would prove to be one of the most entertaining performances seen by this reporter in his short but illustrious career. The three HRUFC dignitaries, Barry Wright, Tim Smith and this reporter were treated to an excellent pre-game lunch to fuel the heavy-going spectating that was to follow. There is much to get through, so the pre-amble will be brief.
Dignitaries suitably refreshed and fed, the game began. An exit kick is gathered by Declan Nwachukwu who runs from deep in Horsham's half beating multiple Colfe's players. Eventually however he is tackled near the line only to have Jamie Redmayne in support and able to put the ball over to score. 1 minute played, and an early statement from the green and whites. Tom Johnson kicks off an excellent game (bar one yellow card) and kicks cleanly over the post from out wide. 7-0, 1 minute played.
In what would become a theme of the first half, Old Colfeians were un-relenting in their counter pressure. Very little breathing space was given for Horsham, and it was quickly established that any mistakes made would be quickly punished. Horsham initially look comfortable in the face of Old Colfe's attacking play, but a series of weak tackles give Old Colfe's the chance they need to score, and score they did. 7-7 after a 10 minute phase of pressure. A penalty is conceded shortly after as Horsham's feathers start to look ruffled which is kicked over for another 3 points. 7-10 after 17 minutes.
Horsham gather themselves and begin their own attacking phase, Aaron Linfield notably moving the ball very well from the breakdown. However, Old Colfe's must have been watching re-runs of Joe Wilde's highlight reel earlier in the season as they execute a well timed interception and score comfortably under the posts. 17-7, 22 minutes. Things were starting to look a little calamitous for Horsham as Old Colfe's hit straight back from the reset and spin the ball wide from a failed line out which sees a player in space and able to find the try line. A good conversion sets the score at 24-7. Some concerned glances were exchanged among the coaches and travelling Horsham contingent, except Tim Smith who was 12 minutes deep in to a story with one of the Old Colfe's spectators.
Horsham needed to act. Act they did - and it was two props who started it! Giles Barber and Kyle Fairs break trough the Old Colfe's line and sprint literally 10 yards - an impressive feat for a prop - before Kyle Fairs lays off to Jamie Redmayne who is able to go the remaining distance to score. Johnson is unable to put the ball over which sees the scoreboard show 24-12, and the clock 24 minutes gone.
Horsham, invigorated by their brave props, surge forward from the reset. Jack Osgood finds ball and is able to beat multiple tacklers, drawing valuable resources in to bringing him down before laying off to Declan who visibly changes gear and charges down the wing and over the line to score. Johnson finds his feet again and converts. 24-19, 34 minutes. As Tim Smith helpfully pointed out, this was "now a game of rugby".
Horsham's composure was fully regained by this point, and approaching half time would need another score ideally to settle any remaining nerves. A great team effort for the last 5 minutes of the half is rewarded when Mike Watts finds the ball after great multi-phase play and puts the ball over the line after gliding round multiple tacklers. 24-26, half time. At which point this reporter left, in search of refreshment.
Barely refreshed, a penalty is awarded to Horsham early in the half which Johnson kicks over the posts to add another 3 points to Horsham's tally. 24-29. An even phase of play ensues with nether side gaining the advantage. Eventually the stalemate is broken. Mike Watts breaks out wide and executes a dummy to Declan which, as a feat of misdirection, would have had Derren Brown questioning what he saw. This give Watts ample space to glide in to and over the line. Johnson kicks the conversion to add the extras. 24-36 at the 55 minute mark.
Had this reporter not had another 5 tries to describe he would have mentioned some of the middling play over the next 10 minutes. Briefly; Sam Hampson good break, Watts attempts quick tap and go - ref denies, Osgood downed and hurt, Jordan Smith on. The next try again goes Horsham's way. Another brief note to say that this game saw, from being 7-24 down, 55 unanswered points from Horsham. As the reverend LL Cool J said, "Don't call it a comeback, I've been here for years, and I am rocking my peers". Poignant words. Linfield spins the ball wide from scrum to find Declan who, again, visibly changes gear and pumps past multiple tacklers to score. A bit more gym time and he could be a real prospect. 24-43, 30 minutes.
Mike Watts was clearly enjoying himself and fancied another try for the books. Horsham move the ball swiftly across their line out wide to Watts who saunters past 3 tacklers and scores comfortably. Johnson is now in full swing with his kicking game and comfortably leathers the ball between the posts. 24-50 at the 70 minute mark. But wait, there's more.
Declan Nwachukwu should really see a doctor about his insatiable thirst for tries, might be a kidney problem. He was clamouring for more as the ball finds Declan in space. It regularly seems to be the case that it is not a matter of how many are in front of Declan, more how much distance he has between him and the first tackler. Once he has changed gear the result is rarely anything other than a try. At 73 minutes he proves the rule. Johnson converts to set the score at 24-57. Two minutes later Declan proves the rule again for his fourth try of the game. See previous three tries for a description of what happened. Johnson is unable to convert on this occasion and sets Horsham's final score at 62 points. Old Colfeians deservedly take two tries in the last 5 minutes of the game; a testament to their mentality.
This reporter went to find head coach Nick Stocker, via the bar, for some words after the game. He found him glowing with contentment holding court with the other coaches. I approached, beer in hand.
"This was always going to be the defining test of promotion aspirations. Traveling away for the penultimate game of the season, against strong opposition who fielded a full team to maintain momentum on their own quest for Twickenham glory, watched by a large VP lunch would always ask questions of most teams.
That certainly was the case with the lads starting slowly and despite getting on the scoreboard first, the basic error count was mounting which allowed Colfe's to surge into a 24-7 lead. Thereafter Horsham started to relax into the game, played to our structure and stretched the defence creating holes that our dangerous runners could exploit. Initially overturning the deficit and securing the lead by halftime and then accelerating away which saw a steady stream of tries based on high skill set executed at pace. The result was 55 unanswered points between the 24th and 76 minutes of the match in a spell of great teamwork, aggressive defence and strong set piece work. Particularly at scrum where the quality of the ball won helped launch attacks that saw 4 tries come from that first phase.
With such a complete team performance it was hard to single out players and we eventually awarded a shared man of the match across the team. That said, Declan, with 4 today and 32 tries for the season needs special recognition. His work rate to get on the ball, then his pace and power to score tries or set them up is a huge asset that the rest of the team recognise fully. He will surely be up for some of our seasons awards when we finally get round to recognise our players’ efforts.
Next week, our final league game at home to Maidstone. The opportunity to secure a play off for promotion spot and as such another huge game in the offing. All support would be hugely welcome."
Horsham RUFC also wish Old Colfeians every success in the cup. Tim Smith has made some firm assurances that if the they reach the final at Twickenham, he will be there. Hopefully this does not affect Old Colfeians' aspirations too much.