Dropped balls and soggy feet
Unbeaten run comes to an end as Horsham struggle to break down a well organised Colfeians defence in atrocious conditions
Match Report by Nathan Jervis
The only thing more disappointing than the weather on Saturday was the 80 minutes of rugby that would play out on Horsham's AGP. As loyal supporters huddled on the sideline, bracing against wind and rain, Horsham put in their most frustrating performance to date this season. There were glimmers of hope throughout, but those glimmers were seemingly extinguished by the relentless wet weather, and equally relentless pressure from the opposition. Highlights were few and far between, and this reporter struggled to pen anything of note on the day. However! There was some excellent bantering on the sideline, and pints after the game were at a reduced price - so all was not lost. Except, unfortunately, the match.
The best that could be said of the first 10 minutes was that it was very, very wet. Something was clearly happening out on the field, but it was not recognisable as the rugby we had become used to over the last few weeks. When Emperor Nero would walk the streets of Rome, he employed a servant at his side to continuously telling him "you are just a man". This to avoid the supreme power he wielded from consuming him, and giving him ideas above his mortal station. On Saturday, Old Colfeians would be the team to mutter this in Horsham's ears for 80 long minutes. Horsham's dominance over the last few weeks was surely halted, whether due to the abysmal conditions, or that Old Colfeians were simply the better side, this reporter would be at pains to say.
After 10 minutes Horsham conceded a penalty against which is successfully kicked by the Old Colfeians number 10. Another 15 minutes of play happened, apparently, during which Tim Smith regaled some younger, more impressionable, members of the club as to his rugby "career". This reporter challenged the now 3 pint deep Tim Smith, arguing that "career" is far to grandiose a term for a hobby which got completely out of hand, and nearly killed him on more than one occasion. Tim shouted something back but luckily it was not heard, having been drowned out by the howling wind, as well as the fact that that nobody was listening.
Too many missed tackles culminated in a Old Colfeians try against, converted. 10-0 down now with 25 minutes gone. As the rain grew heavier, and Tim louder, this reporter questioned his resolve to watch another 55 minutes of Horsham struggling to find a foothold in this game. He left in search of refreshment. This was fortuitous, for it was during a moment of quiet reflection gazing in to the golden nectar that he would find his courage, and venture back out into the elements.
A penalty is awarded Horsham's way, but Tom Johnson was unable to convert. Even for a kicker of his calibre, the crossfield wind and the slippery conditions would mean that kicking was likely to be a challenge throughout. With nothing standing out for the last 5 minutes, the game reached half time. More refreshment would be required to muster the energy, nay, the bravery to head back outside and brace the elements once more.
The first 17 minutes of the second half saw two Horsham changes; Johnny Whiting on for Richard Tredgett, and Nick Bell on for Kyle Fairs. Little else happened so at this point this reporter would like to request a brief intermission to provide some trivia relating to the 8th December. On this day in 1928 Ulric Neisser the German-American psychologist, neuroscientist, and academic, and personal hero of head coach Nick Stocker's, was born. I for one raised a glass in his honour on Saturday. On this day also, in 1914, a squadron of Britain's Royal Navy defeat the imperial German East Asia Squadron in the battle of the Falkland Island's in the South Atlantic.
Back to the match then, just in time to see Michael Tredgett drive over the line from a maul! A sudden and unexpected turn of events, but an extremely welcome one. The players had truly put in a shift by now, there would be no taking that away from them. However, the momentum never shifted in Horsham's favour on Saturday which made for frustration for supporters and players alike. Tom Johnson successfully converts to see Horsham within 3 points of Old Colfeians at 10-7, 57 minutes gone.
The last 20 minutes was dominated by Horsham possession but, again, there seemed to be no answer to the question of how to break the opposition's line, and turn effort into points. Final score, 10-7 to Old Colfeians.
After the game I was unable to find head coach Nick Stocker, usually on or around the bar, for a few words. Nobody seemed to know where he was, which was curious. Eventually I found him. Sitting cross legged on the floor on the Bill Grant room watching the blue ray symbol bounce around the television screen, not moving and transfixed. I was cautious to disturb him. I had heard what can happen when people in deep states of concentration are suddenly interrupted, and I was not prepared to attempt this with a former adventure scout. He mumbled something, barely audible:
"50 DVD's...I bought 50 copies...why won't anybody buy them...they're excellent value"
"Head coach Nick Stocker?" I said, as gently as I could, "Do you have a few words for the report?" He turned to look at me, unrecognising, before snapping back into consciousness.
"I've got a special edition of Avatar in the car..no? You sure? It's the extended cut. Never mind. A disappointing result. We started poorly and for some reason offered little physicality and fire in the face of a big pack. We gave them a head start with cheap territory and a few too many missed tackles in the first 25 minutes which as their coach said, gave them an early boost of confidence and set the tone for the defiance Colfeians showed in defence thereafter.
In the second half we were much better. Our Lineout secured our ball and some of theirs. Their early scrum dominance was countered and became an even battle, and we moved the ball with more purpose putting them on the back foot. However we just could not find a way through. We missed two huge opportunities to score, had a try disallowed by an unsighted ref and coughed up too much possession with the next phase likely to result in a try. Credit to Colfeians defensive resilience and structure, who fought for every scrap but today we just weren’t good enough.
Man of the match awarded by Old Colfeians went to Vince Everitt who was his usual busy self. Other good performances saw Ted Powell continue to develop well, narrowly missing out on a try late on, Aaron Linfield whose tackling of a much larger Number 8 was textbook, and Jamie Redmayne who offered the defiance that allowed others back into the game."
Next week will be an undoubtedly tough game away at table leader's Beckenham. A return to previous form will be needed, and if Horsham excel at one thing, it's rising to the occasion. Apart from when it rains.