Match report by Nathan Jervis
The air was frigid at Horsham rugby HQ on Saturday. Winter had truly arrived and its effects were truly to be felt by spectator and player alike. So much so that this reporter's only option was to resort to excessive refreshment to keep out those northerly winds. Regardless of the weather, a duty was to be upheld, responsibilities were to be carried out, talent was to shine, and elements were to be braced against. This reporter was prepared to do all these things, while watching Horsham play a bit of rugby.
To that end, there was to be some fine rugby played on the day. It should be said that Horsham had serious momentum going into the match against Dover, however Dover are not a side to be taken lightly. Sitting at fourth place in the league table, Dover were there for business. Fortunately, Horsham had turned up in their Sunday best, plus 4's and all, and were prepared to take the travelling side to task.
Marcus Condon scores inside 2 minutes. Horsham immediately move the ball well from the kick off, and the score looked to be inevitable from the whistle. This could stand to be corrected, but Tom Johnson kicks his first of what this reporter believes to be a perfect kicking game, taking the score at this early stage to 7-0. Dover rally effectively, gaining ground and pushing the game line deep into Horsham's 22. Indecisive play from Dover awards Horsham two scrums consecutively within 2 minutes of each other, both won, however sloppy play from Horsham is displayed for the next 5 minutes. Line-out's were not straight, balls were dropped, and tackles were not being committed to. Some fatherly words from head coach Nick Stocker aided in rectifying this drop off in energy, enabling Horsham to have their turn in Dover's own 22. A penalty is given Horsham's way from a line out, Tom Johnson kicks comfortably to add another 3 points. 10-0 at the 18 minute mark.
At this point in the game the effects of this reporter's attempts at thermo-dynamic retention via excessive lager intake were already starting to show, and emotions were running high. What he witnessed however was nothing short of world-class running from Declan Nwachukwu. As the dying afternoon sun shone on the pristine artificial grass pitch, a vision in green and white danced and pivoted through Dover players - this reporter counted 7 but was subsequently informed this may be inflated - to score. Incredible scenes which words are not capable of fully expressing. Imagine then, if you will, Madonna in Evita singing "Don't cry for me Argentina" while squatting 200kg's, and this may go some way in depicting the visual energy of that try. Tom Johnson naturally follows up with a solid conversion, 17-0, 20 minutes on the clock.
The momentum was now without doubt behind Horsham, and excellent 'chan' was being run all over the 'park'. Jack Osgood drives through multiple Dover players to lay off to Aaron Linfield who deftly touches down in the corner. Tom Johnson converts, 4 kicks from 4 attempts at this point. Horsham taken to 24-0 at the 25 minute mark. Now it's the young Vince Everitt's turn to demonstrate some powerful play, after holding off a brace of Dover tacklers he is able to exquisitely swing the ball out to Dec, who, presented with enough for a space for even a semi-competent winger, easily runs the ball home. Tom Johnson converts. 31-0, 30 minutes gone.
From a well taken ball by Jamie Redmayne, Dover manage to steal and drive through the Horsham line for a try. An impressive feat considering the confidence and energy Horsham had been playing with. A solid conversion put some digits on the board for Dover, 31-7 with 35 minutes gone, hopefully not too much to worry about for Horsham. Some nerves were apparently starting to take hold as, after repeated team infringements, El Capitain Richard Tredgett receives a yellow at the death of the half. With this set back Dover are able to capitalise and steal a try at the 40 minute mark, which is converted, to take the half time score to 31-14. A fair reflection of the last 15 or so minutes of the first half.
Some rugby happened for the first 5 minutes of the second half until one of the finest players ever to don a Horsham jersey, Jordan Smith, had to come off due to a calf injury. This reporter had long suspected that Jordan Smith was not composed of the same flesh and bone as you or I, but instead steel and concrete where bone and tendons would be usually. Those suspicions, and dreams, were dashed at the sight of the injured flanker hobbling off the field. As all hope appeared to be lost, Michael Tredgett is brought on to the field. Nicknamed Bot, some say after the African predatory fly which consumes all in it's path, and devours flesh and bone from the moment it's born. Others say he is so named due to a big bottom, this reporter will not pass comment on this, and Michael Tredgett was unfortunately unavailable after the game for some words on the subject.
Richard Tredgett returns to the field at the 49th minute to restore Horsham to its full fighting strength, figuratively and literally speaking. A penalty is awarded Horsham's way which is, once again, kicked well by Tom Johnson. With 9 minutes gone in the second half Horsham's lead is extended to 34-14. Another 6 minutes of rugby is played. During which the ball is passed, at times by Dover and at other times by Horsham, from player to player, generally in a backwards direction. While this was happening, other players, not currently in possession of the ball, would run into the ball carriers in an attempt to "tackle them", and turn over possession to their team, respectively. In the event that the ball is put out of the game and in to "touch", a "line out" is awarded to the opposite team responsible for the ball leaving the field of play in the first instance. It was from one of these "line outs" that Horsham were able to collectively drive through Dover's defence and lay off to Michael Tredgett who is able to power over the line and score on the stroke of 54 minutes. Another comfortable conversion sees Horsham 41-14 ahead.
If asked at the time, this reporter would have said that Horsham were comfortably ahead, and we could now breathe easily and see through the remaining 20 minutes or so. However, would Dover rally and take Horsham to task on their lead?
No, they wouldn't. Jack Osgood is substituted after a characteristically strong performance, and the leggy Adam Clarkson is brought on. Horsham would have strength, depth, breadth, and now height on their side to see this enthralling game out to its close. Vince Everitt's dominating running would be finally rewarded at the death of the game, as he was able to break away from a Horsham scrum and beat a number of Dover players using a combination of pace and strength. A predictably comfortable Tom Johnson conversion sets the final score at 48-14. At which point this reporter went in search of refreshment, and a nice frosty pint to warm his cold, weather-beaten hands. A tough day at the office, as I am sure the players would agree.
After finding head coach Nick Stocker trying to peddle DVD's out of the boot of his car, this reporter was able to grab a few words:
"Are you sure you don't want a DVD? No? Okay fine. A strong first half performance backed up by a mature, controlled second half which saw Dover’s attempts at a comeback fizzle out. Lineout and scrum were sound sources of possession and our ability to get over the gain line caused Dover trouble all afternoon. Our ball carrying in particular from Jack Osgood, Mike Tredgett, Rich Tredgett and Vince Everitt was excellent. The new front row combination was very strong and it was good to see Giles Barber return from long term injury and Dan Cass after 3 weeks on the bench showed his potential at prop whilst Ted Powell’s conversion to hooker is gathering pace.
In the backs, the teenage half back combination were excellent offering pace on the ball distribution and playing in the right parts of the field. The back three are a real threat in attack, with Declan Nwachukwu and Chris Double playing excellently. In a close call, Tom Johnson’s faultless performance from the tee and huge defence was just shaded by Marcus Condon whose all round work rate, rugby intelligence and try saving interventions as well as a well taken try earned him the man of the match award this week.
All in all, a pleasing day. The fixtures are coming thick and fast and we need to keep the momentum up and take this forward into our next fixture against Hayward’s Heath on the 1 December."