Horsham edge top end of the table game in epic match
Six tries each but Tom Johnson wins the battle of the kickers as Horsham go second on points difference
Match report by Nathan Jervis
In Barry's budget bus the Green and Whites made their way to London on Saturday to face Charlton Park. Sitting just behind them in the league, this game would determine much as to how Horsham might finish the season. Giddy anticipation gripped this reporter, as well as is trusty sidekick, Tim Smith. After being treated to an excellent Lasagne at the behest of Charlton Park, the travelling supporters were fully fuelled to watch what would prove to be a game of pure drama, entertainment and, ultimately, rugby.
The whistle blew, and play commenced. In what was almost a carbon copy of the first 20 minutes of last week's game Charlton Park applied continued pressure on Horsham from the outset. Horsham countered on a number of occasions, but Charlton Park were able to establish early momentum and were rarely pushed out of Horsham's 22. Good tackling from Tom Johnson, combined with consistent effort and physicality from the Horsham forwards, saw this momentum slowly start to fade. Jordan Bell regrettably sustains an injury early on which sees him taken out of play to be replaced by Chris Double. After 21 minutes the situation was looking bleak. However, at the 22nd minute saw Horsham attack, for maybe just the third time in the game, and the ball is swung out wide to Declan in space - a sight which is surely becoming the stuff of nightmares for foes faced so far this season. Declan changes gear and manages to outpace multiple defenders to find the line. Tom Johnson uncharacteristically falls short on his kick, the scoreboard shows 5 - 0. A move in the right direction, but nerves were yet to be settled.
The well deserved score must have given Horsham the confidence they needed to attack with real intent, and after several phases the ball found it's way in to the hands of Dan Cass a few yards from the line. Short of a brick wall, and even then this reporter would not wager his commission cheque on it, there a few things that would stop Dan Cass at speed, with ball, from that far out. Cass leads with his shoulder and is able to drive over the line for Horsham's second. Tom Johnson is able to convert to put the score at 12-0.
If supporters nerves were not quite settled yet, two minutes later Joe Wilde would provide the equivalent of chamomile tea in the form of yet another trademark interception from halfway. "The interceptor" is fast becoming a serious problem for opposition attacking at too shallow an angle, as to do so will inevitably find Wilde's long sticky fingers probing over the game line. Tom Johnson, now fully warmed up, adds the extras to put Horsham 19-0 ahead with 10 minutes of the first half left on the clock. Charlton Park rallied and were able to capitalise on a Horsham error for Terry Read to pick and go from the scrum and score, not converted. 19-5 on the board as the half time whistle sounded.
The reset saw absolutely no drop in intensity from either side, but Horsham were first to make a statement. Vince Everitt gathers from the kick and carries powerfully to lay to off to Tom Johnson who repeats, using his considerable cruise weight, and is then able to pass out wide to Declan, again in space, who is able to power down the line to sore. Tom Johnson adds the two points from a difficult kick to put Horsham at a much more agreeable 26-5.
Charlton Park respond. A number of missed tackles out wide sees the home team in space and Jake Conway able to find the try line, the conversion is kicked well and the point gap is reduced. 26-12. The reset sees a brief period of kicking, the ever unpredictable variable, which culminates in a lucky bounce for Charlton Park which puts them in space out wide and in the hands of their light-footed winger Reion Raybe who scores. Again, converted, and the point gap is reduced further. 26-19, only a converted try between the two teams.
Three conceded tries in the first 20 minutes of the second half would surely rattle teams made of lesser metal. The Green and Whites however resumed play as if the last 60 minutes hadn't occurred at all. Charlton Park launch an attack soon after the reset which is quickly shutdown by a crunching tackle from 17 stone of un-spent cruise weight in the form Tom Johnson. Vince Everitt gathers and finds Joe Wilde who in turn finds the try line just under the posts. Tom Johnson dusts himself off and kicks the extras to put the score at 33-19, 62 minutes played.
A number of things happened in the next 10 minutes; this reporter cracked open his third bottle of Becks Blue, an ambulance was called (or it may have been a Charlton Park supporter carrying a stretcher making ambulance noises) for the ref who had jarred an existing knee injury, and Tom Johnson was tackling with the gusto of two weeks worth of all you can eat buffet. Amidst this chaos however an unfortunate tackle by Declan saw their player up-ended in dangerous fashion. While clearly not malicious, the result could have been a lot worse and the net result was a red card for the petrol powered winger. This may have been enough to rattle the Horsham players as play began to appear more erratic, something which Charlton Park evidently sensed. Two tries were conceded on the back of this sloppy play in quick succession, both scored by Rob Saunderson and however neither were converted. 33-29! Hyper-ventilation was spreading among the supporters, and the rate of beer consumption spiralling out of control.
At 78 minutes an inhaler was gifted to ease this reporters troubled breathing in the form of a barnstorming run by Vince Everitt. Running from 20 yards out, and with a hand off that the recipient's ancestor's felt, he was able to drive over the line and hopefully with it, the last nail in this game's coffin. However Charlton Park would not go quietly into that good night, and were able to capitalise on a questionable free kick given and for Saunderson to secure his hat-trick in added time to bring the final score to 40-34. To repeat a phrase from earlier in this reporters career; there is only one word for that, magic rugby.
"Form an orderly queue I say! Damn and blast would you all listen, queue quietly and I will get round to you!" Head coach Nick Stocker bellowed in the car park delving deep into a sack of DVD's. But there was no queue, nobody around to speak of in fact. And certainly nobody enquiring about purchasing copies of Big Mama's house on blue ray.
"Some words for the report, head coach Nick Stocker?" this reporter asked quietly. Startling people in this state was a dangerous affair, he had heard.
As his eyes cleared, and his shoulders relaxed, head coach Nick Stocker said the following of the game:
"The tense 1st quarter showed no signs of the drama to follow and that 12 tries would be shared between two very committed sides. Ultimately a great game of rugby although we should have killed it off more effectively when leading 19-33 with 20 to play.
Instead we started making silly errors and gifted possession to a side who’s big ball carriers are a handful and need no second invitation to play. This put pressure on our defence later on which ultimately made the game closer than it needed to be. Until then, our defence was excellent with a physicality that caused problems all day as witnessed by both Joe Wilde’s tries.
In attack we were clinical taking the opportunities we created and even managed to leave a couple of easy tries out there which would have calmed the nerves!
To a man, the forwards were immense today with Rich Tredgett, Jamie Redmayne, Vince Everitt and Jordan Smith huge. The front row worked tirelessly against much larger opponents and got their rewards with parity at the scrum- a huge factor on the way the game developed. I was really pleased for Dan Cass in particular to get on the score sheet.
In the backs, the press in defence and pace in attack caused problems. Marcus Condon is getting better by the game and Declan was unplayable until his unfortunate red card. Joe Wilde runs terrific lines that carve teams apart and with Aaron Linfield pulling the strings, the overall pace of the side is frightening.
Man of the match in a team that had many candidates went to Tom Johnson. His kicking is excellent. His physical presence both in attack and defence is huge and the vision he has all came to the fore today!
The relentless pace continues with a tough cup game away to Old Colfeians next week!"
Barry's budget bus and bacon baps will be available next week for the trip to Old Colfeians.