Horsham were well beaten at Coolhurst by a Beckenham side 22-50 mixing power and athleticism with the visitors scoring eight tries. On this performance the visitors would have to be one of the favourites to win the league and return to London 1 South after an absence of five seasons.
The Green and Whites were optimistic going in to the game having had a good result away at Maidstone last week, and completing the double over Beckenham last season, but they were caught unawares by the dynamism of second row Eb Ikediashi who scored a hat-trick of tries, missed last season through injury and will surely cause nightmares to defences in the league this season, the pace of full back KK Orelaja returning to the side after university, and the powerful surging runs of experienced prop James Cleverly coming off the bench in the second half. Beckenham are however more than a handful of talented individuals and produced as good a team effort from a visiting side as has been seen at Horsham for a couple of seasons.
Horsham had narrowed the deficit to seven points with a Tom Johnson penalty on the stroke of half-time before Beckenham pulled away with five second half tries.
The hosts were unable to apply any sustained early pressure as they lost a couple of line-outs in succession on their own ball, and from Beckenham’s first meaningful attack Horsham conceded a penalty which resulted in a powerful drive before Ikediashi scored converted by Louis Richards.
Horsham did not let a nasty blood injury to Jordan Smith upset them as they launched attacks on both sides of the field from Declan Nwachukwu and Joe Wilde, and then Michael Tredgett on the charge through the middle, but on each occasion the Beckenham defence was equal to the task.
On 25 minutes a fine counter attack saw a Tredgett line break and then with good hands from Nick Bell and Jonny Whiting the ball was spun left to Nwachukwu who showed his pace to run around the defence to score from the half way line which was well converted by Johnson to level the scores at 7-7.
A pick up at No.8 saw a great blind side try scored by Beckenham scrum-half Craig Thomson and then Ikediashi scored the individual try of the game when he broke through four weak tackles running down the touchline to score in the corner. Johnson came back with a penalty to keep Horsham in touch as they went into the break 10-17 down. The Green and Whites had further hope for a revival when Hans Laud-Anderson was yellow carded on the stroke of half-time which provided the hosts with a ten minute numerical advantage.
Both sides rang the changes at half-time but it was Cleverly who made the impact off the bench by bulldozing his way through several tackles in the heart of Horsham’s defence to set up the first of full back Orelaja’s two tries. Ikediashi then completed his hat-trick with a good try following some great recycling.
Horsham countered with a great try from Tom Blewitt after he had crashed through several tackles on a diagonal run to score under the posts following good work by Johnny Goward and Tredgett.
Unfortunately Goward suffered an unfortunate injury before Orelaja showed amazing acceleration to round his man from a standing start and burst through the gap in Horsham’s defence to score.
Centre George Hickson scored for the visitors and then Horsham scored their third try from Josh Steggles after Jonny Whiting had shown good support to along break down the touch-line by Wilde. Johnson’s conversion attempt came back off the posts.
Finally Josh Smith scored for Beckenham in the closing minutes as they secured a half century of points.
Horsham head coach Nick Stocker said: “A very disappointing performance today. We did not have the appetite for the physical contest and gave their ball carriers too much respect missing too many tackles. Combined with a malfunctioning lineout, and an inability to look after the ball, we could not build any pressure of our own to get our own game into effect which we only saw in glimpses. We were well beaten by a good side but we were significant architects of our own downfall.
On the positive side, the scrum went well and on occasions we showed a threat with the ball. The team will learn from this. Things have gone really well until today and perhaps we’d developed a bit of hubris. It will serve as a reminder just how competitive this league is and to progress we need to bring our A game and appetite week in week out.
On a more sobering note, Johnny Goward took a heavy knock and has fractured his cheek bone and will undergo an operation on Tuesday. We wish him a speedy recovery.
Mike Tredgett was our man of the match for reaching his usual physical standards and carrying with intent.”
On Saturday Horsham travel to Gravesend for another tough fixture in an intriguing league which looks to be more competitive than for many years.
Horsham: Bell J; Nwachukwu, Wilde, Johnson (capt), Blewitt; Blake (Ordidge), Steggles; Reid, Bell N, Powell (Fisher); Goward (Fairs), Whiting; Osgood, Smith, Tredgett