Dartfordians pip Horsham in epic encounter
Horsham remain fourth after losing another epic encounter with fellow promoted side Dartfordians, who stay third.
Horsham remain fourth after losing another epic encounter with fellow promoted side Dartfordians, who stay third. The spoils have been evenly shared over the last couple of seasons and the result remained in doubt until the final whistle.
Horsham coach Nick Stocker felt the marginal calls did not go his team’s way: “I am disappointed to have lost. We have had some good games with Dartfordians over recent years settled by a single score and today was no different. It was a close match decided by fine margins.
For example when Paul Talbot ran a dummy line when Jonny Whiting was carrying he was adjudged to have crossed, and when we were attacking at the end their player was never going to catch the ball when he flung out one hand. That was a definite yellow card and a turning point.
Similarly by the letter of the law a tip tackle by their player should have been a red card whereas Will Johnson got a yellow card for muddying the ball, even though this was a stupid thing for him to do.
I feel aggrieved by a couple of the decisions and you just hope that in a game of such fine margins that they do not influence the result which today perhaps they did.”
Dartfordians had the better of the early exchanges. Centre Connor Sutherland made a good break off an inside pass and when the visitors spun the ball wide for the first time it required a double tackle from Will Bell and Will Johnson to send the opposition winger into touch.
Horsham came back and after good phase play resulted in the award of a penalty Bell kicked the Green and Whites into a 3-0 lead after 11 minutes from in front of the posts.
Bell ran a great line off Josh Mills to open up the Dartfordians defence, which was carried on by Johnson, and Dartfordians lost flanker Si Briggs to the sin bin for entering the breakdown at the side and prevent the try scoring opportunity.
Despite being a man short Dartfordians upped their game. Fly-half Mike Briggs stepped his man and made a break to open up the Green and White defence, but minutes later he sent a kickable penalty wide of the posts which would have leveled the scores.
Number 8 Sam Allen then made a great break but a try saving tackle from Johnson forced him to make a forward pass to the supporting Liam Brencher when a try looked certain. Dartfordians remained in the ascendancy and after going through several phases flanker Alfie Collins forced himself over the line from close range. Again what looked a simple kick was missed and Dartfordians lead 5-3.
The Green and Whites responded with waves of attacks. Following some direct running and good phase play, Mike Watts after a typical weaving run was stopped just short of the line but in the next movement captain Paul Talbot stormed over the line.
Johnson for Horsham was stupidly yellow carded for throwing the ball in a puddle and Dartfordians took advantage with strong runs from Brencher and Jake Taylor who was tackled into touch just short of the try line and Horsham went into the break with a narrow 8-5 lead.
Horsham showed some good passages of back play with fluent handling at the start of the second half but were rebuffed by some strong defence. Dartfordians centre Tom Tuley was then yellow carded for a spear tackle on Bell but the visitors made light of being a man down and with Allen to the fore, took the game to Horsham.
Then on 70 minutes, with the half having been scoreless so far, Dartfordians conjured up a moment of brilliance. Mike Briggs drifted right and then made a lovely inside pass into the gap he had created for blind side wing Brencher to storm through untouched to score from 25 yards under the posts. Briggs converted the try for Dartfordians to take a 12-8 lead.
This four point margin was to prove crucial. Horsham attacked incessantly throughout the last ten minutes but the Dartfordians defence held firm. Ollie Harcus made a strong run and when the ball was spun wide a Dartfordians player went for a one handed catch and knocked on which if adjudged deliberate would have resulted in a yellow card as it was a try scoring opportunity.
Horsham’s pressure saw the award of a succession of penalties but the deficit meant that they declined kicks at goal as they sought the winning try. Matt McCabe was tackled into touch just short of the line and then the referee’s patience ran out from the repeated infringements when Dartfordians incurred their third yellow card of the match as hooker Sam Cooksley went into the sin bin, but Horsham ran out of time.
Stocker summarised after the game: “Both sides gave away few penalties in kickable positions and they shaded the scrum, especially in the last 30 minutes.
I can’t fault the endeavour of our players. We are two evenly matched teams but we just lacked a little composure in try scoring areas.
We didn’t get our big runners over the gain line running from depth enough and as a result much of our back play was too lateral. We were also guilty with our tactical kicking of going straight down the throat of their back three.”
Horsham’s next fixture is away to Thanet Wanderers, who are presently having a difficult season, on 23 January.
Horsham: W Bell; W Johnson, Watts, Ordidge, Wilde, J Johnson, Mills; Talbot, Grantham-Hill, Brady (Fairs); Harcus (McCabe), Whiting; Smith, Gray, M Tredgett (N Bell)