Horsham score the only try but still lose
By Richard Ordidge
Gravesend kick Horsham to defeat
With two relegations down from the National Leagues in the past three seasons Gravesend finally appear to be finding their feet in London 2 South East with victory over Horsham.
It was however a disappointing game, played in the rain, with multiple handling errors and in which both sides cancelled each other out. It will not live long in the memory.
Horsham scored the only try of the game however Gravesend were able to build more attacking positions in the opposition half and take advantage of penalty opportunities at goal without ever really looking like crossing the line.
The Green and Whites did not play with any fluency, struggled to put phases of play together without conceding possession or incurring the wrath of the referee, and did not adapt to the conditions by playing too fast and loose at times. Any semblance of control and structure were lacking which will be required if Horsham are to overcome the better sides in this league.
A Tom Blewitt clearance kick was hacked on by the chasing Jordan Bell which led to an attacking five yard scrum. Following a scrum penalty Horsham opted for another put-in and from a strong platform Michael Tredgett picked up from the base to power over and score. Tom Johnson added the extras by drop-kicking his conversion from wide out and after 7 minutes the score was 0-7.
When Horsham strayed offside after the restart, Gravesend kicked for touch to launch a catch and drive from a line-out but the ball was turned over and the danger was cleared by Blewitt. Gravesend attacked Horsham again until a knock on in the centres which was kicked downfield by Wilde. Good line speed from Horsham was putting pressure on the hosts, forcing errors and when on 18 minutes Gravesend were penalised for pulling down in the line-out, Johnson made no mistake with his kick. 0-10.
This was as good as it got for Horsham as Gravesend slotted a series of penalties from scrum-half Rhys Betts, before he left the field with an injury together with his centre partner Joe Turagakula who was starting to make some dangerous runs, and left winger Liam Byrne-Stevens who also was making elusive runs through the Horsham defence. Problems were mounting for the visitors as their lead at half time was narrowed to 6-10 but Blewitt had left the field injured forcing a re-organisation and they had only just prevented a Gravesend score from a catch and drive but the ball was held up on the line.
Byrne-Stevens had another penalty attempt which bounced off the posts but with the ball still in play Horsham were then immediately penalised after a disputed penalty for kicking the ball through after a good counter-ruck but this time in front of the posts and Byrne-Stevens made no mistake. When Simon Powell was yellow carded for not releasing the ball, Byrne-Stevens slotted another penalty and for the first time in the game Gravesend led 12-10. Horsham responded when Johnson made a break, and then the ball was spun wide to Declan Nwachukwu, who had been well shackled throughout, ran around his man and the attack was carried on by Josh Steggles leading to the award of a penalty which was gratefully accepted by Johnson as the Green and Whites retook a 13-12 lead. This was short-lived when Byrne-Stevens made the decisive penalty kick with seven minutes remaining to win the game 15-13.
Horsham head coach Nick Stocker said: “A frustrating day and result. Our defence was much better today keeping them from scoring a try but we still managed to get on the wrong side of the ref and could not build phases to pressure with any significance.
The ref had some very influential decisions, particularly at the breakdown where his interpretations were odd resulting in penalties despite having signalled to allow play to progress prior to penalising us. This led to confusion amongst the players and difficulty for continuity and ultimately the winning points against.
We nullified their driving maul, had dominance at scrum, held them out of our 22m and didn’t give away a try. Quite how we lost proves a mystery. It makes the three missed opportunities we created seem more wasteful than they needed to be.
On the positive side, our squad depth is good. We handed debuts today to two 19 year olds namely Simon Powell at openside and Josh Earle as front row cover. Both played very well indeed presenting more selection dilemmas. Likewise Bobby McEvoy’s debut was strong with telling contributions throughout despite playing out of position in the second row. It was also good to see Will Johnson back playing and Jake Fisher had a good game on debut at scrum half today.
We selected Michael Tredgett as our man of match for his ball carrying and efforts to get us in the front foot but it was a close run thing with Jamie Redmayne who organised well, led the forwards effectively and make big contributions due to his work rate.
With an expected 10 players back available for selection for next week, we will put this result behind us and focus on the things we can control and work hard preparing for a long road trip to Thanet where we intend to get the season back on track. Given the results in the league, it is clear that this is the most competitive the league has been in a long time. As we move into October, this will only get tougher and the development we saw today will hold us in good stead with the hard work the boys are putting in.”
Horsham: Wilde; Nwachukwu, Bell J, Johnson T (capt), Johnson W; Blewitt (Steggles), Fisher J (Carvell); Fairs, Fisher I, Powell E (Earle); Osgood, McEvoy; Redmayne, Powell S, Tredgett