With a trip to perennial promotion challengers Medway as the next obstacle on this London 1 journey, and both teams boasting identical records of winning 3 and losing 1, this was to be a stern test for Horsham’s young team. By the end of it, Horsham will have gained a huge amount of self-confidence and but for a few costly decisions in the final quarter of a tense match, would have prevailed for a memorable win. With skipper Jamie Redmayne still recovering from a knock sustained 2 weeks ago and Tom Johnson, Finn Hillicks and Nick Bell unavailable, Horsham made a number of changes and welcomed Josh Earle, Ollie Lewis and the wrecking ball that is Mike Tredgett into the squad.
From the kick-off, it was clear that Medway were looking to retain the ball and got quickly into their stride pressurising the Horsham defence across the pitch. Horsham’s defence was up to this initial examination and gradually began to exert some control and which on 17 minutes saw the ball carried well by Vince Everitt and popped off to Mike Tredgett in support to burst over the line for a try that went unconverted. 0-5
In the next play, a fine exit kick was well chased and from the ensuing penalty, Frankie Smith stepped up to convert a fine penalty into the breeze from the Medway 10m line. 0-8. This was swiftly followed by another well executed exit strategy and with the Medway winger struggling to deal with Aaron Linfield’s towering box kick amid a fine chase by Declan Nwachukwu and Vince Everitt, the ball eventually found its way to skipper for the day Johnny Goward who showed a fine turn of pace for a second row and outpaced the covering defence to score in the corner. With the try converted by Frankie Smith, Medway appeared stunned and Horsham held a 15-0 lead after 21 minutes.
Medway altered their game plan and began to kick for territory and following a couple of penalties found themselves in the Horsham 22m. Horsham defended stoutly but when a Horsham lineout was turned over on the 5m line, in was only a matter of time when the pick and go options sucked in defenders to give Medway their first converted try on 27 mins - 7-15
5 minutes later Horsham increased their lead via a huge kick into the wind by Frankie Smith and with halftime approaching aimed to reach the break with the lead intact. Unfortunately, on 35 mins Mike Tredgett who had been causing all sorts of problems to the Medway defence was yellow carded for a high tackle and gave Medway a way back. With a huge boot to the corner, Medway secured the lineout and after several phases of stern defence, secured a try on the back of a powerful maul in the corner 14-18 with 36 minutes played. Medway narrowed the lead further just before halftime when the referee awarded a contested penalty at a scrum as Horsham’s 7 men were found to be deliberately wheeling. 17-18 at the break.
For the first time, on 48 mins, Medway, secured the lead for not releasing at the tackle with the penalty well taken by the Medway 10. 20-18 to Medway with 30 minutes to play.
The next quarter of the match was real arm wrestle with both defences snuffing out promising attacks, Unfortunately, the deadlock was broken by Medway when on 69 minutes, a promising Horsham attack in the Medway 22m resulted in turned over possession and when Medway’s clearance kick was fumbled on the halfway line, Medway gained field position from which they crafted a well taken converted try. 27-18
Horsham upped the tempo and began to exert pressure of their own. A missed penalty on 71 minutes followed hot on the heels of a certain try with the pass adjudged forward. With the replacements all making telling contributions, unfortunately the final ball was often lacking and as is the case with experienced teams, Medway weathered this storm and on 78 mins moved the ball upfield and scored their bonus point try and with it took all 5 available points leaving Horsham with none.
After the match, attack coach Richard Bell was philosophical.
“We produced a dominant first 30-minute performance and had good control of the game in all facets. Vince Everitt and Mike Tredgett were causing Medway real problems with their powerful carrying and offloading. At 18-7 we were very comfortable but a yellow card before half time allowed Medway to score with last play of the half. Up 18-17 at half time and game on. We asked for control and discipline unfortunately we didn’t get that, conceding 8 penalties to Medway’s 4 in the second half and with it the game. These penalties gave Medway good field position and a butchered 2 on 1 for a certain try proved costly. We became too frantic and chased the game at 20-18 down with still 10 mins to go overcommitted players to the breakdown creating space in the wider channels for Medway in the last few minutes.
We take a lot of positives particularly from the first half performance and will learn from this. The lads are disappointed because they know they should have won the game and to come away with nothing was very disappointing. Medway themselves reflected that the score flattered their team and whilst this is a positive, it doesn’t make it easier to swallow! Two stand out players for Horsham were Vince Everitt who was outstanding all game, and man of the match as voted by Medway, Michael Tredgett who looked a real handful in his first game of the season. This young side will keep improving. With 8 of the squad aged 20 or under, it is great news for this season and in the future.
Next up, we face old foes Dartfordians against whom we have had great matches in the past. With the 1st VP lunch of the season, we are expecting a big Horsham crowd and the opportunity to return to winning ways.