Un debut magnifique
Horsham consolidate their hold on third place after fine win
Match Report by Nathan Jervis
An array of expanded, and expansive, waistlines adorned the Horsham 1st XV on Saturday the 5th January 2019. It was evident no brussels sprout had been left un-turned, nor beer un-quaffed, over the festive period. The New Year was afoot, and many of the players stomachs were evidently straining to meet it. On a totally unrelated note; 2019 is also the year of the Pig in the Chinese zodiac. We digress.
The day would bring a plethora of extraordinary sights; aerial acrobatics from Nick Bell, ludicrous quads on Declan Nwachukwu, 0% beer in the hand of this reporter, and dress lofas combined with a light gilet on Tim Smith, despite the temperature not rising much above 0 degrees. This reporter would have expected a 40 year old to know better. La meilleure vue however would be in the form of a double score from the newly acquired Frenchman Mathieu Pecharman. The English language borrows a number of words, still in common usage, from our friends at the other end of the tunnel. "Chic" for example, is used to describe the misguided impression 40 year olds in lofas and gilet's have of themselves when they look in the mirror. "Gilet" is another of course. "Voyeur" is also appropriate; this reporter being ever watchful but not participating. It could also apply to his role at the rugby club. Most significant on this day would be "debut", literally meaning "start", but more commonly used in sports when a player plays for the first time for a particular team. Today was Mathieu's debut, Un debut magnifique.
Gravesend, at this point sitting close behind Horsham in the league table with only 3 points difference, would kick off proceedings by, well, kicking off. Michael Tredgett collects and carries well. The ball finds its way to Declan who breaks away but is unable to gain much territory, and the ball is spilled. A period of scrummaging ensues, the first collapses, the second is wheeled and the third is won by Horsham to allow Declan to have another run at Gravesend. This reporter does not gamble, however if he did he would wager the entirety of his reporter's fee on Declan's quads against an as yet not fully warmed up Gravesend defence. This is unfortunate as Declan was able to gain substantial ground and lay off to Alfie Burchfield who finds the soon to be illustrious Mathieu who is able to finish. A tough kick for Tom Johnson sees the try unconverted, but a solid statement made by Horsham just 4 minutes in. 5 - 0.
Gravesend launch a sustained counter attack from the reset, multiple phases sees Horsham back peddling until the ball is spilled, and Horsham able to respond. Respond they do, and resoundingly so, as Jordan Bell runs out wide and beats multiple tackles before laying the ball off inside to Jamie Redmayne who is able to power over the line for Horsham's second try - and with only 7 minutes gone on the clock. Now warmed up, and with a decidedly easier angle, Tom Johnson is able to slot the ball between the posts. This is an image this reporter is becoming altogether too comfortable with, which is only testament to Johnson's impressive consistency.
Gravesend's response from the reset is again intense, and sustained. Multiple phases occur all within Horsham's 22 forcing desperate defensive play. The Green and White's however are able to muster and neutralise an assortment of probing attacks. Gravesend were starting to run out of options before they were rewarded with the whistle in front of Horsham's posts, and awarded a penalty. The scoreboard shows 12 - 3 to Horsham, but the atmosphere belays momentum potentially building in Gravesend's favour. Would the away side tire? Or would the Green and Whites change gear again and set the pace for the rest of the game? Or neither? Horsham won, so the reader need not worry too much, but it's all about building a bit of suspense.
After an enthralling phase of play which this reporter can't quite recall, Gravesend attempt to nudge the ball down field into touch. However, Nick Bell would be having none of that nonsense on this, the first game of the year of the pig. Bell leapt in to the air until his entire frame was out of touch, and in the air. If Tim Smith had been quick enough he could have scurried underneath and thrown his arm in the air in an homage to Free Willy, but Tim was yelling to the world at large about lofas, or white trainers, either way his reporter wasn't listening, nor he suspects was anybody else. Before Bell made contact with the ground he was able to slap the ball back into play to see Horsham move it quickly across their line and surge forward. I am under pains to note also that the newly appointed bar manager, Nicole, was also present at the sideline. It was muffled, but I think she said she was freezing her mitts off. On why she would take her mitts off in those temperatures this reporter would not want to comment.
At the death of the half Gravesend are awarded another penalty to put them within a converted try of Horsham. A fair reflection of the first half, but this reporter is sure some stern words would be spoken by head coach Nick Stocker.
Half time, 12 - 6.
Whatever was said, and whatever DVD clip was watched, apparently had the desired effect. Horsham attack with urgency from the reset with some big carries by some equally big players in the form Michael and Richard Tredgett. This physicality, combined with safe hands, culminates in the 2nd try for Mathieu. Surely, a try against this soon in to the half would make many of the Gravesend contingent Les Miserables. Johnson is able to convert to see Horsham move 19 - 6 ahead.
From the reset Gravesend move forward with intent, however Horsham rise to meet them and are able to intercept. Play moves out wide to see Jordan Smith thundering down the wing with the try line in his sights. Beating at least 2 Gravesend tacklers, and manhandling a third, he is able to put the ball over the line. Calamity! The ref gives a knock on, to the dismay of the home spectators, and warns the Horsham captain to keep an eye on "that number 7". What Jordan did to incur the wrath of the referee will remain a mystery, but I suspect his beard may have played a part. Gravesend are unable to capitalise on this fortunate turn of events however, as the ball ends up in the hands of Jack Osgood. This reporter is starting to doubt whether Osgood is indeed only human after all, as his consistency in ball carrying is deeply impressive. This was on full display today as he beats multiple tacklers to lay off to Jordan Bell who kicks out wide to be collected by Declan. I'm not sure whether Declan's legs take diesel or unleaded petrol, either way his tank was brimming as he pumps over the line to score. Johnson comfortably converts to see Horsham stretch ahead to 26 - 6.
Tom Johnson immediately moves to meet Gravesend's attack from the off. A delicate tackle by Johnson, the player was only very briefly upside down, is not taken well and a fracas breaks out. Once all handbags had been gathered and accounted for, play resumes. Thankfully it resumes in the form of the piston powered Declan receiving the ball from halfway, and running. Once he got past the first defender, he felt like running a little more. Then he passed the second, then the third, and he just kept on running. In fact, he ran all the way to the try line, and when he got there, he done turned around and ran back. Johnson converts to put Horsham comfortably in front at 33 - 6.
A last hoorah from Gravesend sees continuous pressure put on Horsham, pressure which eventually found its way through and gave Gravesend a well deserved try. 33 - 13, with 8 minutes left on the clock.
Osgood again displays inhuman strength and drives through multiple players from the reset. Horsham had received the ball from kick off and moved forward well, good ball movement saw it given to Osgood, who decided he was going to carry a few tacklers with him on his way to the try line. Gravesend are able to slow him down and counter however, although this ultimately runs out of steam, and brings the game to its conclusion.
Final score 33 - 13 to Horsham.
This reporter was able to catch up with head coach Nick Stocker after the game. The excitement following Mathieu's two try debut was palpable, and head coach Nick Stocker was insistent on giving his post match thoughts in Mathieu's native tongue. Here are his thoughts:
"C'est magnifique! Voudrez-vous un DVD?"
“First game back following the Festive break is always a challenge to get back into the groove but the guys settled very quickly scoring two very good tries in the first 20 minutes. Thereafter our excitement got the better of us for a short while seeing conceded possession and penalties which Gravesend converted to points. In the second half, we looked after the ball much more effectively and pressured Gravesend throughout scoring 3 further tries, all of which were well constructed giving us a well deserved bonus point.
The forwards were excellent today with a dominant scrum and effective lineout. The carrying of the ball from both Michael and Richard Tredgett, Jack Osgood, Jamie Redmayne, alongside the work rate of Jordan Smith, Ted Powell and Nick Bell and Dan Cass ensured a stream of quality possession which the half backs Aaron Linfield and Jordan Bell used effectively. Our backs looked very sharp in attack as epitomised by Declan’s second try which was a rapier like thrust to finish off the game.
Probably the most pleasing aspect given the break, on the other side of the ball in defence we were well organised and aggressive which stymied Gravesend all afternoon. In this area, the back row and Rich Tredgett were instrumental along with Alfie Burchfield in first full start who tackled well and secured 3 turnovers in the centres. It was also particularly pleasing to see debutant Matthieu Pecharman score two well taken tries to be a contender for man of the match. That award however went this time to Nick Bell who’s work rate is an example to all. His interventions across the park, both in attack and defence were huge despite the full shift he puts in weekly in the front row.
Next week we welcome Thanet at home as we look to get the second half of the season onto a roll.”
This reporter would also note that a strong performance for the first game of 2019 has set the tone for this, the year of the pig. Now Horsham must ensure they bring home the bacon.