Wet weather win for Horsham
Horsham remain second after hard fought win at Heath
A grim and determined contingent of Horsham supporters bravely made their way to Haywards Heath's ground on Saturday. This week also included Tim Smith who was, unusually, not in the midst of a gaggle of under 18 girls, and therefore able to watch the Horsham 1st XV get wet and dirty - this reporter is not sure which he prefers. The supporters were envious of those playing; they had the luxury of running around and hugging each other to stay warm and stave off the inevitable shivers. The supporters had to make do with room temperature ale and a variety of umbrellas. Never-the-less, the pitch bore up to the abysmal conditions, so the players were able to play, and the supporter's support. Haywards Heath would be, as always, prove to be a physical and motivated opposition. Considering the conditions, it was likely this would get messy, literally and figuratively.
With a wet thud the ball was hoisted into the air to start the game. Both teams seemed to take 5 minutes to get used to way this game would need to be played. The rain, wind, and mud would be undeniable factors, so all players would need to adapt and play dynamically. Noticeably, our runners were unable to find solid footing and change gears nearly as effectively as would be usually on the pristine AGP. Of course, neither could Haywards Heath's. However with Horsham being so used to such perfect ground conditions, would this work to Haywards Heath advantage? After 7 minutes, this may have been answered. From a 5 metre line out followed by a strong drive, Tom Johnson was able to find the line and put points on the board first. There is no denying Tom's run of form this season, and if this reporter was more motivated, he would now dig out some stats on the all-time points scored for Horsham. Lacking these, we can confidently say that he has scored many. Very many. Converted well in the rain, Horsham would be put 7 points up 7 minutes in.
This was unlikely to be a high scoring game, and indeed the next 8 minutes consisted of a great deal of sliding around in the mud trying to gain some firm footing, both in the ground and in the game. It would be Haywards Heath however who were able to come out on the top from this phase of play. A chip into space saw the ball taken and run over the line for Heath's first points. Un-converted however, which left Horsham in front by 2 points. Another 10 minutes of fully grown men playing about in the rain and mud would occur before Tom Blewitt was able to score from a well-weighted, well executed box kick from Aaron Linfield. With the conversion Horsham would steam into the second half 14-5 up. It is also worth noting that Nick Bell was running great lines in the first half. Just off to the side of the pitch. With a flag in his hand.
Half time - Horsham,14 - Haywards Heath, 5
Haywards Heath clearly had their satsumas and lucozades at half time; after only 1 minute Heath were able to break Horsham's defensive line and find the try line. With a well-kicked conversion the game was suddenly a lot closer. 14-12 to Horsham. After a good 50 minute run-about, and some big tackles, Dan Cass was taken off to be replaced by the linesman, Nick Bell. Line duties were assumed by Head Coach Nick Stocker who found it difficult in his skinny tracksuit bottoms, but did his best. Purely by coincidence a penalty is given Horsham's way shortly after, which is deftly kicked by Johnson in now extremely challenging conditions. 17-12 ahead, but not out of danger just yet. Lo and behold - another penalty goes Horsham's way! Likely born out of frustration for the Heath players, this coupled with the awful weather meant that passions were soon running high, and mistakes inevitably made on both sides. Johnson again kicks the penalty successfully to put Horsham 20-12 ahead with 57 minutes on the clock. Not there was an official clock, but if there had been, it would have read 57 minutes.
Joe Wilde is next up to make an impact. Running the slowest 50 yards of his rugby career, but still quick enough to just edge past the Heath defenders, Wilde intercepted a mis-kick from Heath on the halfway line and scores. Absolute "scenes". Or, it would have been if the game were more visible between 1200 square feet of umbrellas, mud, and relentless English drizzle. Michael Tredgett comes on for Jack Osgood who put in an excellent shift, as is becoming of the hallmark of the young player. Muddy and exhausted, he is only human after all, Jack exits the field to be replaced by Michael. Surely an unwelcome sight in a crisp white kit compared to the battered and muddied Heath players seeing in their 70th minute.
Haywards dug deep however and deservedly are rewarded after a continued phase of pressure which sees Horsham make mistakes enabling Heath to fight to the corner and score. Final score, 27-17 to Horsham.
This reporter had already left and was in search of refreshment when he found head coach Nick Stocker examining Haywards Heath's clubhouse's impressive television:
"A television that size and they don't have a DVD player...do you want Pulp Fiction on blue ray? No? You sure? I've got 50 copies of the bloody thing. Anyway, as a local derby, this fixture is always tough. Today the elements conspired to compound the challenge of motivated opponents as the weather and pitch produced a real leveller for the game. Despite the conditions, we managed the game better than Heath did and played more effectively in key parts of the field. I was pleased with the physicality of our players today which caused Heath all sorts of problems and with a dominant scrum and well functioning lineout given the wind, we looked in control throughout. A few lapses in concentration leading to penalties and eventual tries against were areas to improve but on the whole I am pleased with the result. There will not be many teams that come to Heath and get a win and I have no doubt that Heath will have a big say in the final league standings.
Whilst all the boys put in a hard shift, in particular I was impressed with Simon Powell on his full debut, Tom Johnson with his defence and kicking skills, and for Rich Tredgett and Jamie Redmayne who combined to control the team and dominate the lineout. Man of Match was shared between Ted Powell who’s recent conversion to hooker was severely tested yesterday alongside his excellent work rate, and Dan Cass who was simply monumental in defence with hits that were decisive along with excellent work at the scrum. Next week, we have another tough game at home to Old Colfeians who we have also drawn in the RFU cup to be played in February."
A strong performance by all involved on Saturday, considering the fact it absolutely p****d it down for 80 minutes.