Match report by Nathan Jervis
A blanket of grey cloud framed Coolhurst on Saturday as a strong Horsham team faced off against an always challenging Haywards Heath in this much anticipated local derby which also doubled up as the Bob Rogers Sussex Cup Semi-Final with the winners set to face Hastings & Bexhill. A prevailing easterly breeze would add an extra element of difficulty but was not strong enough to present too much of an issue. Champagne corks however would, as frivolities from the senior lunch spilled out of the clubhouse and on to the AGP. Initiative and creativity would be also be displayed both on and off the pitch with an ironing board won in the raffle being used a as drinks stand by some quick-thinking supporters. Inspiring scenes.
A mention must also be made regarding the U18 girls on Friday night against league leaders Pulborough. While the final score did not go Horsham’s way, a display of grit and talent made for an impressive overall spectacle. A blistering try from Jenna Fairs caused borderline hysteria on the sideline. Strong performances from Libby Clark at 9, Eloise Strong at 10 and Charlotte Roberts made for encouraging viewing, while Imogen Dold also displayed great intensity. A learning curve for the girls who undoubtedly have great things ahead of them.
To the 1st team game. There was barely enough time for this reporter to begin his sideline refreshment before Joe Wilde scythed across Heath’s line before finding Mike Watts in space. Watts employed his trademark gliding running style and drifted over the line in comfortable fashion. To complement the two power runners of Declan Nwachukwu and Sam Hampson, Watts and Wilde both have a smooth-running style which opposition tacklers find difficult to deal with. Almost as smooth as this reporters IPA. Tom Johnson does well to kick the extras which sees 7 points on the board for Horsham, 3 minutes in.
Heath hit back and put pressure on Horsham deep in their own half, eventually winning a penalty decision. The kick goes wide however and enables Horsham to reset. Horsham attack and Jordan Bell executes a deftly weighted cross field kick which is caught and retained in the hands of Dan Cass who carries strong in typical fashion, the young wizard Aaron Linfield supports and Horsham drive over the line. In the melee this reporter’s view was obscured as to who the finisher was. Matthew Stone attempted to claim the try from the side line, but seeing as we were at the other end of the pitch this reporter doubted that Stone’s pace would allow him to score and be back in his original viewing position, pint in hand and puffing on his vape, before the bundle of players were back to their feet. After a brief investigation Johnny Goward was proclaimed scorer, and Tom Johnson does very well indeed to convert from a wide position. 14-0 with 16 minutes on the clock.
A period of subdued play ensued which gave this reporter time to realise that Tim Smith was not in attendance – initially thinking that he had in fact gone deaf. Bolstered by this good news he could get back to his IPA, and the game. Unfortunately, this meant seeing Heath hit back at Horsham and overwhelm their defence to eventually find the try line. Unconverted, and the score line set at 14-5 with only 5 minutes left. As previous girlfriends of mine can attest; a lot can happen in 5 minutes. Strong scrummaging from Horsham was rewarded with a penalty. Tom Johnson kicks off and over the posts from wide which adds another 3 to Horsham’s tally. 17-5.
Shortly following the reset kick Aaron Linfield executes an impeccably performed box kick from deep in Horsham’s half which clears the danger and sees Vince Everitt in possession with only a few Heath defenders between him and the line. Not enough. Vince powers over and adds 5 to the board although unfortunately not increased by Tom Johnson who narrowly misses the conversion. 22-5, half time.
While the momentum was undoubtedly with Horsham, Heath were still very much in this game and made it abundantly known 4 minutes in to the 2nd half. A Heath forward broke through the centre of a ruck only yards from the try line and was able to capitalise. With the extras added the board showed the score as 22-12. Horsham worked hard to regain the momentum previously gained in the first half. This hard work was rewarded in spectacular fashion by a blistering run from Declan Nwachukwu who beats two tacklers snapping at his heels to pump over the line. Tom Johnson re-laces his boots and gets back in to the swing of kicking to put over the extras. 29-12.
Declan was thirsty for more refreshment, and it wasn’t the same refreshment as this reporters IPA. Try’s are the only thing that can quench Declan’s insatiable thirst, and he drinks pints of the stuff. From 10 metres out Declan gathers the ball and leaves defender’s heads spinning as he drives over the line. Tom Johnson’s laces briefly come undone again and the try is unconverted. 34-12, 61 minutes.
Ensuring that the crowd didn’t get too comfortable, Heath hit back quickly with a speedily taken tap and go to score. The kick goes wide however, and the try remains unconverted. Horsham display excellent discipline from the reset and calmly run through multiple phases. Eventually Jack Osgood receives the ball and is able to step Heath’s last defender and find the try line in a wide position. Tom Johnson does well to convert form the angle and adds the final points of the game. 41-17, final score.
The inevitable consequence of multiple IPA’s drove this reporter quickly inside and to the lavatories as soon as the whistle blew. It was while contemplating the evening ahead that he heard muttering echoing around the tiled walls coming from just outside the old changing room door. He went out to investigate.
“They laughed at me…they all laughed at me…they weren’t laughing on the coach to Dover. Always told ‘em there’d be one. I told ‘em, but they wouldn’t listen…”
“Head coach Nick Stocker?” I approached carefully, head coach Nick Stocker’s past is dark and full of terrors, it would be unwise to startle him.
“Some thoughts on the game? When you’re ready…”
“Not laughing now are they…I better up my order of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective on blue ray…some thoughts? Aye, lad, sit thee’self down and listen.” Head coach Nick Stocker paused to gently put a copy of Rogue One in to his backpack.
“The prospect of playing a confident Heath team is always a challenge and today was no different. Our set piece worked well today with the scrum dominant and the lineout securing good ball in attacking positions. Physically aggressive, particularly with the line speed and tackle stifled any Heath attacking aspirations which when all combined meant we had control for most of the game.
In a team full of strong performances, the coaches singled out Kyle Fairs for his lineout work, Vince Everitt and Jack Osgood for the ball carrying and breakdown work, Mike Watts for his attacking intent and ability to hit gaps allowing Declan Nwachukwu additional space to score his 27th and 28th tries of the season. With Tom Johnson having a fine game all round, in a tough decision, Jamie Redmayne was awarded man of the match for his leadership, physicality and excellence in defence and attack all afternoon
Next week we have another tough match away to Old Colfeians, keen to put right a reversal in the cup earlier in the season and consolidate the grip on the play-off spot.”