Match report by Nathan Jervis
The conclusion of an incredible season for Horsham 1st XV would leave a lot to be desired. Out of the quagmire of spilled balls, knock-ons, mistimed runs and missed tackles however, victory was achieved. With promotion already secured two weeks ago, the heat within the crucible of Horsham rugby had lessened. Fortunately, it was still plenty hot enough on Saturday. As Horsham’s forces gathered on and off the pitch, the tension was never-the-less palpable. Had this reporter not been helpfully supplied with beer by his own beer runner in Imogen Dold, he may have even been nervous. One thing was clear; Horsham were in the Endgame now. The run-down of the match this week will be succinct, as there is much to be wrapped up after a scintillating season of rugby. Tim Smith was in attendance, much to the annoyance of those within earshot.
The whistle blew and 3 minutes later Horsham were on the scoreboard. The last time a Frenchman marched to Hastings in anger, they came away with the W. Saturday would be no different, a break from Aaron Linfield puts Mathieu Pecharman in to score. Joe Wilde converts well. 7-0.
Middling play resulted in a penalty awarded Horsham’s way at 9 minutes, however it went un-converted. Hasting & Bexhill would be awarded a penalty at 23 minutes which they were able to capitalise on to close the gap slightly on Horsham’s tenuous lead. 7-3.
Mathieu Pecharman, possibly invigorated with historical precedent, is able to find himself in space after multiple Horsham phases and puts the ball over to score. Wilde converts very well in the conditions - storm Hannah was skirting the field of play with tricky gusts - and puts Horsham 14-3 ahead.
Just before halftime Horsham gain momentum and execute multiple phases confidently culminating in the generously proportioned Jonny Whiting getting ball in hand before bull-dozing over the line. The try goes un-converted, and half-time sees the score set at 19-3.
Hastings and Bexhill were able to manufacture a possible comeback within the first 5 minutes of the second half. They were awarded two penalties off the back of sloppy Horsham play and good H&B pressure, however both went unconverted. This reporter would ask whether the rest of the game would have progressed as it did had H&B capitalised on this opportunity, but he will never know. It was also at this point in the game that the difficult decision was made to ramp up his beer intake to appropriate cup final levels. The rest of the afternoon would be hazy.
Based on reliable sources, Josh Earle was able to chalk his name on the scoresheet at the 65-minute mark following a typically strong carry by Declan Nwachukwu. 24-3. In incredible scenes which at the start of the season were spoken of only with irony – including by the Spaniard himself – the one they call Sergio Bebiano, hailing from Wigan, was brought on to replace the excellent Mathieu Pecharman. In his last game for Horsham he once again proved himself to have been an asset this season and has provided moments of ecstasy in his short-lived Horsham rugby career. Back to the game, and with cries of “Spaniard! Spaniard” from the crowd, Sergio took the field.
At 71 minutes Jordan Bell, I am told, executes a deftly timed quick tap and go and is able to score Horsham’s last try, also the last try of the game. Joe Wilde converts to see the final score set at 31-3. Joe Wilde made the bold claim that he is Horsham’s most capped player this season, this reporter was far too well-refreshed to challenge this so there you have it, in print.
After the match this reporter stumbled on to the side-line to watch the awarding of the Bob Rogers Cup for the sixth straight year. These wins have come against Hove (three times), Lewes, Crowborough and now Hastings & Bexhill.
Cup and medals awarded, naked laps run, and pictures taken. Horsham 1st XV saw out a season brimming with success the level of which has not been seen in a generation. It has been a pleasure to witness, and to report on.
After eyes had been dried, and lips wet, I went in search of head coach Nick Stocker for some words on the match. He would be found in the changing rooms, sitting alone on one of the benches, quietly reflecting on the day’s events.
“The performance today did not reach the heights that we have seen in recent weeks. After the emotional high of securing promotion two weeks ago, multiple changes and more disappointingly, a possible touch of complacency, we only managed to deliver a spluttering performance. In the face of a motivated Hastings & Bexhill side playing in their first Bob Rogers Cup Final, we did not look after the ball enough, were not smart in the use of the ball and lacked some physicality at the breakdown and in the tackle. That said, on those occasions that we did look after the ball, and went through some phases, we scored good tries and ultimately this was the difference between both sides - our ability to convert opportunities presented.
Regardless of the performance, it was a great way to end the season - securing the Bob Rogers Cup for a 6th successive time (surely there are precedents that the cup can now be kept???) on top of promotion to London 1. With promotion, our first team will not be eligible to defend the trophy next season with the Lions now needing to step up to do the honours. If their performance at London Irish is anything to go by, they will surely do the club proud next year.
With a raft of changes seen, man of the match was awarded to one of the players who has progressed fantastically well this season following his step up from last year's colts. Josh Earle's energy, work rate and no small degree of technical ability in the scrum coalface were excellent. He is a real prospect and one that I know Adam Halsey is looking forward working with further when we return after the break. In the meantime, we also made our farewells to Mathieu Pecharman who moved to Horsham this season from France to work on his English and rapidly showed his mercurial talents on the wing. His two tries today were a great way to sign off and we look forward to saying a proper good bye during the player awards night set for 24th May.”