Horsham travelled to table toppers and promotion favourites Dartfordians in an important encounter to maintain pressure in the battle for second place in the league. Ultimately, Horsham did not come away with any points but Dartfordians were in a battle for much of the game and would recognise that the score line did not reflect the tightness of the encounter.
In the reverse fixture, Horsham struggled for possession with a malfunctioning set piece and despite this offered more threat in attack. However, Darts do not make many mistakes and Horsham capitulated in the final 3 minutes a result of one of our own. This second encounter was a completely different affair with Horsham securing a steady stream of set piece possession and using it effectively to gain territory. However, mistakes were the order of the day again and having worked themselves in to opposition territory, found themselves getting on the wrong side of the ref through contact area infringements. Darts are a well drilled team that work hard for one another and gifting them possession whilst trying to build pressure is not a recipe for success.
The match started with Darts on the attack and very quickly Horsham’s defensive commitment was tested. After 7 minutes, Horsham started to exert pressure and moved upfield and through quick ball enticed Darts backline offside for a simple kick at goal and a 3-0 lead.
With the pattern quickly set, turnover ball was kicked back downfield into Horsham’s 22m. In an uncharacteristic loss of concentration, Mike Watts was caught in possession under the posts and the ball was spun wide for a simple score. Horsham had given Darts a sniff which had been gratefully accepted. 7-3
With a quarter of the game gone, Horsham were shading the lineout and had nullified Darts’ much vaunted scrum and the result was a titanic battle between the 22m lines. On 20 minutes, Horsham defence was caught a little narrow and the Dartfordians number 8 finished strongly from the 22m for an unconverted try. 12-3
Horsham went straight back on the offensive and securing a penalty backed their lineout to function electing to kick to the corner. The kick was not the best and meant that the driving maul option would have to be well executed. What followed was a display of great technique and composure as the Darts pack was shunted back a full 15m for a try finished by Johnny Goward. It went unconverted, but Horsham had their tails up and Darts were feeling the pressure. 12-8
On the stroke of halftime, Horsham were on the attack again and pushing for a score when another Horsham mistake was punished by Dartfordians. A dropped ball was seized upon and ground made. Quick ball was generated and spun wide against a narrow and scrambling defence for a fine score in front of the many Darts supporters. The afters that followed score saw a brawl break out with the Dartfordians 6 yellow carded for foul play. He was lucky not to have seen red with the referee claiming to be unsighted. 42 minutes played, and Darts had gained breathing space in a tight encounter 19-8
The second half followed the same pattern. Play between the 22m and a good battle at set piece with two fully committed sides trying to secure the win. Horsham defended resolutely when required and Darts similarly snuffed out any Horsham threat. Darts’ driving maul was repelled every time it was used such that the options to kick at goal were employed, whilst Horsham had to begin to chase the game as the clock wore down. Both sides missed try scoring opportunities in the second half and the ref also missed two clear cut try scoring opportunities one for each side as the game entered the final few minutes.
On 72 minutes, Dartfordians scored the bonus point try following some strong carries and multi-phase play. It put a gloss on the score line which whilst underlines Dartfordians credentials as champions elect, it does not reflect the fact that for much of the game, Dartfordians were similarly under pressure. Final score 26-8
Horsham fielded a team where 7 players are 21 or under with four 18-year olds taking the field, 2 of which are still playing colts rugby this season. Another 4 players are 25 or under and given the way this team is developing, will be a tremendous handful in the seasons and games ahead. The back row today was outstanding with strong carries from the likes of Jordan Smith, Johnny Whiting and replacement Mike Tredgett. Rob GH on his return to the first team played a very influential role in the scrum and lineout with his throwing whilst Ryan Maguire and Johnny Goward played full parts in the set piece control. Man of the match however was awarded to Vince Everitt who started his first game for the 1st team today. In what is a tough ask against a very effective Darts back row, Vince was the standout player secuing 4 turnovers at the breakdown and being a menace to Dartfordians multi-phase play. Next week, Horsham welcome Charlton Park to Coolhurst and will be working hard to ensure we reverse the result of a poor performance in the first fixture earlier this season.