In what must be an unprecedented 5th game away in a row third from bottom Horsham Barbarians traveled to Steyning leisure centre to take on third placed Norfolk Arms 1st team. Buoyed by recent performances they knew that they'd have to reproduce their best form to create an upset. A now quite settled pack were playing in front of a very youthful looking 3/4's with the half back pairing of Callum Boswell and Matt Blakes' combined age not matching that of most of the forwards.
A little bit of joviality with the Ref preceded the game when he told us how much he disliked Horsham because we'd stood him up earlier in the season. He must have been joking as for once many of the early decisions seemed to go for the men in green, despite this Norfolk Arm's better functioning lineout produced a couple of decent rumbling drives. Both featured breaks up the blind side making good ground and one of these resulted in an early score. The Barbarians were still asleep and 5 down.
Perhaps at this point the Norfolk Arms felt the job was done and the Barbarians would cave in, this wasn't to be the case as slowly the team in green began to assert themselves on the match. Constant plundering of the NA's now predictable 4 ball and a dominant scrum saw an increasing amount of territory going up the hill. NA's number 8 who had a fine game clearing up the mess at the back of the scrum allowed them to recover well during these periods of pressure but Horsham should have equalized twice in that half. Two forward passes at critical moments left the score for at 0 and with a rare foray into the Horsham half and whilst the Horsham Captain was discussing the finer points of the breakdown with the Ref the 12 tapped and scored a very soft try under the posts.
Still training only 10pts at half time with the hill and wind behind them the belief was very much there with the Horsham team and the game was almost wholly played in the NA's half. Despite this the Barbarians rarely looked like scoring. NA's approach to holding players up turning tackles into mails and resilient defence was holding firm and the Barbarians were unable to use the pace of their youth on the tight pitch. With the catch and drive weapon that NA were able to use unavailable to Horsham the stream of penalties NA were conceding as the match wore on meant tap and goes or scrums but the home side were up to it and from another driving maul they nearly added to their own tally.
The final play of the game saw NA opt to take a penalty kick at the posts. Quite what that achieved was lost on most but congratulations must go to the kicker who took a little baraking for the odd decision before his wobbly low kick eeked over the bar.
The fact that the guys were so disappointed after the final whistle shows how far this team has come in a short time. On reflection it's easy to be harsh on ourselves but the difference here could be leveled with a few training session and it must be remembered that it wasn't that long ago that our 2nd team (who we didn't take any players from) were playing this fixture. We are at heart a social side but joy in playing is from being competitive and we know the next step if we want to move things on. Hour on Thursday anyone?
Mentions this week go to Callum Boswell, James Tandy, Rory McGrearty and Matt Blake our colts who applied themselves with gusto as always. Ben Taverner who had to wait a while to get a run out and our travelling support Al Jones, Bos, Filip Lenczowski who watched first match and JC and Alex who all had to share our frustrations.
Quote of the day "I think you should stop doing that!" Kev Whitlock.
Next week is St.Frances at home - if you can remember where it is! (easy on the beers Friday)