A blistering start leading to a 15-0 lead was eventually undone by the combination of Horsham falling foul of the referee and Charlton Park's experienced team playing practical albeit dull rugby to deliver a last gasp try deep into added time. Horsham needed to win in order to maintain pressure on the top 3 and this result puts greater points gap between the closest rivals and ultimately this young side will need to learn from these errors if its to progress as a squad.
Horsham started at a blistering pace and had they converted a few more of the opportunities created, Charlton Parks' game plan would never have had the capacity to claw back the deficit. The lineout and scrum, so excellent the week before versus Dartfordians, did not function with the same quality and on 4 occasions in the 1st half, scoring positions were squandered allowing Charlton Park to clear their lines. These opportunities were in addition to the 3 fantastic tries scored direct from 1st phase which showcased the power of Horsham's attack and the quality of their handling.
The 1st, direct from kick off saw the ball moved from the point of contact to set up a quick ruck ball. This was spun wide to the left with Tom Blewitt making great yards then handing on to Mike Watts and taking a return pass to finish under the posts for a try converted by Joe Wilde. Five minutes later, further pressure led to a penalty converted by Joe Wilde for a 10-0 lead.
The second try came direct from a line out with the ball spun wide. Good running lines in the backs saw Tom Blewitt take the ball at pace and following great hands by Joe Wilde, Mike Watts was on hand to finish strongly. The try was unconverted giving a score of 15-0 after 11 minutes and Charlton Park stunned. Credit to Charlton Park and their experienced heads, they managed to gain some possession and after a series of penalties, managed to exert some close quarter pressure on the Horsham try line. Horsham showed the defensive prowess to withstand some determined surges and after 5 minutes of pressure eventually succumbed for a converted try on 17 minutes. 15-7
Horsham continued to press and scored another great try from scrum with a well executed pick up from the base with Johnny Whiting carrying strongly. His pace stretched the defence and with both Josh Mills and Mike Watts in support the ball was carried to the try line where Johnny was once again on hand to crash over. Joe Wilde converted and a 15 point cushion had been restored with the scoreline 22-7 after 26 minutes.
Time and again Horsham approached the Park line and with possession being turned over too readily, would the wasted opportunities come back and punish the young Horsham side? Park scored a similar try on 32 minutes which this time went unconverted, which left the half time score 22-12 and at this stage, no hint of the drama that was about to unfold.
Charlton Park's set piece had started to improve and on 44 minutes, managed to exert pressure in the Horshan red zone following a series of driving mauls. The Horsham half time message of playing sensible rugby in the opposition territory and maintaining discipline went unheeded giving the big Park forwards the opportunity to drive for the line. A penalty try was awarded following several infringements leaving the score 22-19
Horsham's indiscipline continued and on 46 minutes, a yellow card to influential prop Nick Bell gave Park a sniff of the lead which through the dominance of their scrum gained field position and an unconverted try for the lead at 22-24. This momentarily stirred the Horsham attacking force and saw Horsham drive upfield to earn a kickable penalty which was duly converted by Joe Wilde on 55 minutes. 25-24
The tone for the remainder of the game was set however. An arm wrestle for possession which at set piece was dominated by Park in the scrum and with Horsham's line out malfunctions, became difficult to secure field position. A second yellow card on 72 minutes to Horsham saw Rob Grantham - Hill removed from play only to return to the field 2 minutes later at the referees insistence to ensure scrums remained contested. This decision was hotly contested given a front row change had already been made and with Parks forwards running down the clock, had they been forced to play the game from the base through uncontested scrums, the outcome may have been different.
Despite this, Horsham defended resolutely and as the game drew to a close with the ball in Parks 22m, Horsham only had to secure possession and kick to touch to win the game. Instead, a penalty was conceded and so began the inexorable march towards Horsham’s try line where Parks old heads ultimately secured a try under the posts.
Horsham will be very disappointed not to have closed the game out. Charlton Park, whilst playing a game that was not particularly ambitious, ultimately won the match which is credit to the character, resilience and greater experience. They have big games ahead as their cup run in the RFU Intermediate Cup reaches the final stages and a chance for a second appearance at Twickenham. We wish them well for the rest of the season and look forward to renewing aquaintances next season.