It was with a fair amount of positivity that Horsham Barbarians left for the short journey to play our friends in nearby Barns Green, a strong side with some spare on the bench. We did have a worry initially with no obvious 10 but thanks to some good work behind the scenes (Al Jones/John O'Rielly) Alex Cleary who was instrumental in the home win was able to come with us at the last minute.
After the trek up the hill to the pitch with some fears that the stragglers left at the club wouldn't be able to find their way the Barbarians opted for the short sharp warm up. Horsham won the toss and elected to go up the slight incline with the wind and sun at their backs. With kick off approaching the sidelines filled with the Barns Green and Horsham VPs no doubt feeling slightly dizzy from the hit of fresh air after their lunches.
The game started similarly to the last with Barns Green in the ascendency with a series of penalties and clean lineouts aided by some effective mauling moving them with purpose up the field. However the visitors seemed to have all the answers when the big questions were asked and the scoreline remained blank. Surviving this early assault Horsham started to settle and work their way in the game. Some tactical kicking, ably chased by the hard working Horsham was starting to keep Barns Green pinned in their half, but just like Horsham they were proving a tough nut to crack near their line and even when Horsham put together a string of 10 or so phases they still held on. Still there were cracks, a break by Alex Clery was only just stopped by a last gasp tackle by the Barns Green winger and turn over on the wing was judged to have been knocked on. It was going to take something special to unlock the crucial score and it was Horsham combining young and old which did the trick. Alex Clery made a purposeful run up the middle feeding Will Thomas playing outside centre who kept his running line straight and held the defence before finding Rob Clegg. He was tackled by Rory Yeates but Todd Lowe normally a hooker was hunting the ball from the wing. His timing, pace and line was spot on and was able to take the offload from Rob Clegg at full tilt. This saw him fly pass the covering defence and crucially score under the posts.
The second half saw the conditional advantage go towards Barns Green and they set out with the game plan to exploit it . Any time Horsham made any inroads into the Barns Green half it went back over from the boot with the wind. The back three of Ben Carbone, Sam Lunn and Todd Lowe along with replacements Gary Simmonds and Chris Mallows were having to work hard especially with the low slung spring sunshine almost blinding them from the high ball. This tactic similar to the one used by Horsham was allowing BG to have the lions share of territory with Horsham occasionally threatening to hit them on the break. Up front if Horsham had the edge in the scrum BG's lineout was proving an effective tool and it was from one of these that they created their best opportunity. Drawing in the Horsham forwards to stop the driving maul a gap was spied up the blind side and to the joy of the home support was scored in the corner. Shortly after Barns Green lost their strong ball carrying number 6 and Captain when an attempt to rip the ball was caught a across the nose. He was able to rejoin the action when the blood stopped and it looked fairly straight in the club house - apologies to him and his wife for any future snoring issues.
Barns Green were going to have further injury problems when Horsham minis and juniors graduate Callum Yeates was forced to leave the pitch with a nasty knee injury. Hope its not as bad as it looks and he makes a quick and full recovery. Despite knocking repeatedly at the door Horsham refused to buckle and with the last play of the game the Barns Green 10 took a chance at drop goal glory and despite the range made a pretty good go at it as it just drifted a little low and wide. The ref blew his whistle and a jubilant Barbarians celebrated their 4th win in a row.
On behalf of Horsham Barbarians I'd like to thank BG and their committee for their hospitality and a hard fought game. We've managed to take the points in both games but on another day things could have turned out differently. Our MOTM went to Todd Lowe for the bit of skill that got the crucial score and also praise deservedly goes to Ben Carbone for his senior debut. Alex's calmness and confidence at 10 was vital and the commitment to the tackle across everyone in the team was a joy to be part of.
Next week we have a break and then it's full on for the visit of Worthing - a home match!