Beckenham extended their lead at the top of London 2 South East to twelve points with a comfortable 26-10 win at home to Horsham. This was a great weekend for Beckenham, the champions elect, with their three closest challengers Charlton Park, Horsham, and Gravesend all losing.
The Green and Whites made the trip to Balmoral Avenue in hope rather than expectation having been on the end of a chastening 22-50 defeat at home to Beckenham earlier in the season and their fortunes were not helped by the absence of the Tredgett brothers who would have provided some much needed heft.
Instead hopes were placed in youth with a squad containing five players still in their teens, and a belief in the side having greater mobility, but the atrocious conditions of cold, incessant rain put paid to Horsham playing an expansive game. Furthermore the power of the more experienced Beckenham side meant that Horsham were playing off scraps of possession.
Beckenham had the upper hand in the early stages as James Curr broke through the Horsham defence with a strong run, followed by another from his centre partner Louis Richards to create an attacking position close to the Horsham try line but a combination of handling errors and determined resistance from the visitors prevented a score.
Tom Johnson relieved the pressure with a series of booming kicks and when Horsham danger man, Declan Nwachukwu, made a rare sortie into the opposition half Josh Smith, having great pace for a second row, was there to make the cover tackle and snuff out the danger. Aaron Linfield was making steepling box kicks as his options were cut down by the line speed of the opposition backs and Horsham found it difficult to launch their exciting back division with limited possession.
Finally the deadlock was broken on 15 minutes after Johnson kicked for an attacking position when Beckenham were caught offside, and when the home side’s backs encroached from the ensuing line-out, Johnson kicked the penalty for Horsham to take the lead.
Controversy then reigned when following a quickly taken tap penalty, which appeared to be some way from where the offence had taken place, Jamie McDowall scampered in under the posts following good work by Keita Orelaja and Alex Jones. Richards made no mistake with the conversion and the hosts led 7-3.
Orelaja was looking a threat when mixing his runs and kicks from full-back, and when one such kick was knocked on, Beckenham were back in Horsham’s 22 metre area. Despite a strong set piece the hosts were unable to capitalise on their field position due to handling errors until Beckenham were awarded a penalty try from an attacking scrum on the stroke of half time which Richards converted and they went into the break leading 14-3.
The second half started with a chip and go by Beckenham scrum half Craig Thomson which nearly led to a score, JP Santamaria then broke through on the burst but the ball was spilt, Orelaja thought he had scored after he followed up his own kick but the referee wasn’t clear the ball had been grounded, and finally Jones scored after a scrum turnover to make the score 19-3 after 59 minutes, with the game as a contest now seemingly over.
Beckenham then scored another well worked try when No.8 Andrew Knowles picked up off the base of an attacking scrum going blind to put Thomson over for an easy score which was converted by Richards making it 26-3.
Minutes later skipper Liam Markey for Beckenham kicked through requiring Marcus Condon to make a try saving tackle and Johnson responded from a charge down with his own long kick into the hosts territory followed by a hack on to win a footrace to the line and score a consolation try, which he converted off the upright.
Horsham’s Head Coach reflected after the game; “A disappointing result against the league leaders where our set piece did not function given the number of changes in personnel. In particular the scrum where we conceded significant weight and as a result lost this phase convincingly.
With this platform Beckenham always had a source of clean possession and opportunities for penalties and territory which they used to good effect and the platform for three of their tries. The first was disappointing given the quick tap taken from well beyond the mark and the referee allowing this to stand.
On the bright side, we fielded five 18 year olds who all performed well in difficult conditions and showed great spirit throughout which can be built upon. One of these, scrum half Aaron Linfield was voted man of the match for his work rate, defence and attacking threat.
The guys will have a well-earned break and return to league action at home to Gravesend on the 5th January where we will look to return to winning ways.”