Horsham bounce back
After a chastening first day mauling at the hands of Tunbridge Wells, Horsham now understand the level required to compete in London 2 South East.
A second successive victory, this time away to fellow promoted side Dartfordians, has seen Horsham climb to fourth in the table.
Games against Dartfordians have always been keenly contested however this is the first time that the Green and Whites have managed to secure a win in Bexley for many years.
Dartfordians started the more strongly of the two sides. Horsham lost their first line out and then conceded a couple of penalties for not rolling away and for being offside in the three quarters, the second of which Mike Briggs slotted to take the home side into an early lead.
Andy Gray made a strong counter attack fielding a high ball and Tom Johnson levelled the scores at 3-3 when Dartfordians were penalised for preventing release of the ball.
On 9 minutes after great phase play James Whiting straightened the line, broke the first line of defence, to offload to Tom Johnson to score under the posts and then convert his own try.
Arun Thompson made a great steal at the front of the line out and Richard Tredgett made a fine tackle covering back but then Thompson was penalised for coming in at the side when the ball appeared to be out and Briggs pegged back Horsham’s lead to 10-6.
Briggs was kicking a lot of the home side’s hard won possession back at Horsham to gain field position but this allowed the dangerous back three of Mike Watts on debut, Will Bell and Dan Crook to counter attack with time and space.
On one such response Watts gained good ground and this was carried on by Whiting then after a good break by Gray, Dartfordians were penalised for a deliberate knock on and Tom Johnson slotted the three points.
Thompson made a superb solo break running 40 yards down the left wing but his pass was not held. Tom Johnson came off with a hip injury and was replaced by Matt McCabe, also on debut. The game was still finely balanced and it required some long clearance kicks from James Johnson to relieve pressure being exerted by the hosts.
Dartfordians had the edge in the scrums and after a fine passage of play second row and captain Liam Bowmer dummied his man and showed a fine turn of pass to crash through the Horsham defence from 25 yards to score under the posts to level the scores at 13-13.
The home side kicked the ball back to the Green and Whites again and after multiple phase play, Josh Mills made an excellent individual run and exaggerated step to score and with Bell taking over the kicking duties converted the try.
The home side countered immediately with a try from winger Tristan Demuth when Horsham were slow to react to a quick tap penalty and the Green and Whites went into the break 20-18 up.
Dartfordians started the second half in the ascendancy. Horsham were penalised for killing the ball at the breakdown and the penalty was slotted by Briggs.
A poor clearance kick then went straight to Dartfordians number 8, and home side man of the match Sam Allen, who went on a strong run to slice through the defensive line and put Connor Sutherland in under the posts.
After Dartfordians added another three points when Horsham were penalised for offside there had been an 18 point swing in favour of the home side without reply in 11 minutes to take a 31-20 lead.
Horsham now made their changes from the bench which served to invigorate the side as they scored three tries in 7 minutes. Man of the match, Richard Tredgett, scored in the corner after some good continuity. Tom Johnson, who was now back on the field, hoisted a perfectly weighted cross-field kick for Watts to catch and cross the line without breaking stride to score under the posts and the conversion say Horsham take a 32-31 lead.
Johnny Ordidge then broke through the middle and then Thompson in support accelerated away and following Bell’s conversion Horsham now had a 39-31 lead after a 19 point swing in their favour without reply with 10 minutes remaining.
There was still time for Dartfordians to be awarded two penalty kicks at goal, the first of which was narrowly missed, and for the referee to award a yellow card to each side before the game ended with a 39-34 win for Horsham.
This was an excellent game with some high quality rugby played and on this display both sides can feel confident of making an impact this season in London 2 South East.
Horsham coach Nick Stocker said upon reflection, “Dartfordians are a good spirited side who tackle well and have great ability to slow the ball down at the breakdown. Unfortunately we allowed them to live with us due to our own errors.
We gave them opportunities to get hold of the ball and kick us back into our own half but we looked threatening when we got our patterns going. I was pleased that we didn’t panic when we went 11 points down.
I thought our scrum lacked a bit of bite but our line-out was good. Matt McCabe and Mike Watts having just arrived from Silverdale near Auckland will offer leadership and additional skill sets to the back line.
Our two young props played well and Richard Tredgett was my man of the match for his leadership, line out play and all round game.”
Horsham’s next game is at home to Thanet Wanderers on 10th October with kick off at 2:00pm. This will another difficult game for the Green and Whites against a side who were victorious home and away in their promotion season two years ago.
Horsham: Bell; Crook, Whiting (Ordidge 60), Tom Johnson, Watts; James Johnson, Mills (McCabe 60); Brady, Grantham-Hill, Fairs (Harcus 55); Tredgett (capt), Gaynor; Smith, Thompson, Gray