Always assured of a tough encounter whilst playing Deal & Betteshangar, this weekend was no different with both sides keen to generate momentum going into the last weeks of the season. Deal’s ground, a former military parade ground, appeared even smaller than normal this year, possibly a ploy to contain Horsham’s potent back three. Combined with a pumped-up set of forwards and the two best performers on the park in Deal’s full back and inside centre, Horsham found the going very heavy from the off and were not able to play with the same fluidity of recent weeks.
The opening exchanges were frantic with the ball being turned over regularly and moved the length of the field on several occasions to leave both sets of players gasping for air in the first 10 minutes. Eventually, the referee awarded a penalty at the scrum to Deal which was converted successfully. This was followed 6 minutes later by a converted try following a poorly aligned defence and non-existent tackling giving Deal a 10-0 lead with 20 minutes played.
This seemed to stir Horsham slightly and following a strong surge by Declan Nwachukwu, with only the opposing full back to beat on the 22m, a high tackle halted his progress seeing a yellow card and a penalty converted by Tom Johnson. The referee was convinced the yellow card was enough although many observers felt a penalty try would have been equally appropriate. With Horsham on the board, two minutes later, following a series of phases, a second penalty was awarded with Tom Johnson converting again. 32 minutes played and Horsham back into the game at 10-6
With the half ending, further lapses in concentration at the lineout and in and around the ruck saw Deal run a penalty and following some good phase play, score a converted try to draw the half to a close – 17-6
With Horsham in danger of losing this game, changes in dynamic were needed at half time with Kyle Fairs sent on in place of Ted Powell at hooker, and Jack Osgood in to the back row for Johnny Whiting. With a better start and the back three now starting to run the ball back more effectively, Horsham began to exert pressure in Deal’s 22m. Eventually, with Deal infringing repeatedly, Deal’s prop took a team yellow, and the resulting scrum demolished leading to a penalty try. 47 minutes played and the score 17-13
With Horsham now in the ascendancy with both territory and possession, on 57 minutes, a sweeping attack from a scrum on our own 22m saw great yards gained by Sam Hampson. With the ball recycled swiftly, the ball found its way to skipper Richard Tredgett to sell the dummy and score with Tom Johnson adding the extras. This was followed shortly after with another fine kick return involving the back three and Sam Hampson making a significant dent in the defensive line. With the ball spun left, Joe Wilde found Declan Nwachukwu in support to score a good counter attacking try. Tom Johnson who had a perfect day from the tee, again converted giving Horsham a 10-point cushion going into the final quarter – 17-27
Horsham tried in vain to secure a 4th try bonus point but Deal are a tough nut to crack and with Horsham taking the foot off the gas, Deal scored an unconverted try, a result of too many penalties granting field position and a suspect yellow card to Nick Bell. 70 minutes played and the score standing at 22-27 in Horsham’s favour.
With the full complement restored, Horsham returned to Deal’s 22m and focussed on closing out the game, Tom Johnson scored another penalty to give a 22-30 lead that would see the win secured.
Although not a vintage performance by Horsham’s recent standards, a pleasing result against a side that Horsham have not beaten on their travels in recent history. Discipline was poor today with too many penalties given away allowing Deal to play in the right parts of the pitch. Our fluidity in attack was below par and we left a couple of opportunities out there in the first half that would have settled the nerves somewhat. Rich Tredgett was instrumental in leading the players out of a tight spot ably supported by Jamie Redmayne. Man of the Match was awarded to Jordan Smith for his tireless work rate, carries and a huge try saving tackle that all applauded. Whilst the lack of a try bonus point tightens up the league once again, the points difference sits in Horsham’s favour and as such remains in Horsham’s control. We are going to have to play better than this if we are to secure a play off spot. We will have that chance at home versus Aylesford Bulls on 02 March.