Power play from Horsham
Horsham maintained their hopes of a first London League championship since 1993 after this long anticipated title clash.
Dartfordians, their closest challengers, were on a fifteen match winning run and had not lost a league or cup match since narrowly falling to Folkestone on the opening day of the season. Whilst arriving full of confidence they were however handicapped by the late withdrawal of dynamic Number 8, and league top try scorer, Sam Allen with tonsillitis.
Horsham had not beaten Dartfordians since they returned to the London Leagues at the start of the 2013/14 season, and when the sides met at Bexley in October the home side narrowly won 32-30 with a penalty in the last minute and another closely contested match was expected for the return fixture.
Whilst the victory puts Horsham in pole position for a title charge both sides are heavily fancied for promotion and would need a collapse in form of Devon Loch proportions if this was not achieved.
Horsham achieved their win courtesy of a powerful performance by their pack featuring outstanding contributions from the back row. They were so dominant that Dartfordians did not enter the Horsham half for the first 25 minutes other than from kick offs.
Horsham were probing for openings in the Dartfordians line but the defence held firm, then on 7 minutes Will Bell opened the scoring when Richard Tredgett picked up off the back of the scrum to attack the line and when he was stopped short the ball was spun wide for Bell to run in.
Tom Johnson added a penalty then Joe Bowmer was yellow carded for what looked to be a body check. The Green and Whites took advantage on 24 minutes when after a passage of play with both sides conceding the ball cheaply in contact, Horsham moved it wide for James Whiting to finish well.
Dartfordians now started to come back into the game and Horsham conceded a penalty in front of the posts. It had been expected that Dartfordians would kick for the corner and execute a catch and drive, but perhaps because of the ferocious start from Horsham, Ciarin Kent went for goal and narrowed the deficit to 17-3. Minutes later Dartfordians were awarded another penalty but this time the kick from Kent was unsuccessful.
In the second half Dartfordians continued their resurgence. Michael Tredgett was sin binned when he was adjudged to have deliberately knocked on. This time Dartfordians kicked for the corner and created the position for prop Tim Stagg to crash over from five yards. Kent again missed his kick which was later to have a bearing on the result.
Horsham rang the changes from the bench and Bell ran a great line at pace through the heart of the Dartfordians defence that almost produced the try of the match but he lost his footing as he approached the line. Johnson then slotted another penalty to take his personal tally to ten points with a 100% kicking display.
Dartfordians then capitalised on a Horsham handling error with a 70 yard break away from Connor Sutherland to score under the posts and take the score to 20-15 and leave a nail biting last 14 minutes for the home support.
“I am happy to have secured the win”, Nick Stocker, the Horsham head coach said. “In the first 25 minutes we played some of our best rugby of the season and put them under so much pressure, but after that we seemed to lose the referee and our discipline went.
If we had managed to continue playing with this intensity they would have been playing just for pride but we started to overrun passes, struggled to put phases together and took our eye off the ball. Our kicking for territory was not the best and we let them back in.
They came back into the game with their breakaway try when we had our whole team committed to attack but we failed in our execution and looked exposed.
I thought the better team won, we had the better of territory and possession but at times we didn’t look after the ball well enough, especially when we kicked the ball down their throats when we should have kept hold of it in the second half.
We targeted their line-out and nullified it being aware of the strength of their driving maul and I thought we had good set piece control.
Credit to Dartfordiams though, they are a good side and kept coming at us. They played catch up rugby of the highest order effectively and we lost our control at the end of the first half.
The front row had good games against physically bigger opponents and the foundation of the win was built on an outstanding performance by the pack, especially our back row of Richard Tredgett, Michael Tredgett and Arun Thompson who are of National League calibre, whom we have rarely been able to field in the same team this season.
Michael Tredgett was exceptional for his carries and go forward ball, Richard Tredgett was outstanding for his control, chop tackles and ability to clean up scrappy ball but he is pipped as my man of the match by Arun Thompson for his defensive work, his link play and his work in the line-out.”
Following Pulborough conceding the Bob Rogers Sussex Cup fixture on 24 January Horsham are through to the semi-final against Heathfield & Waldron on 14 February. Horsham’s next game is now away to Lewes on 31 January.
Horsham: W Bell, Gibbs, Ordidge, Tuhakaraina, Whiting; Johnson, Rush (Mills 59); Talbot, Stone (Brady 74), Barber; Green, Goward (Pirt 56); Tredgett M, Thompson, Tredgett R