Match Report by Tony Lewis
Last Sunday Horsham Colts entered into new territory as they took on Winchester RFC Colts in the last 32 in the RFU National Under 18’s Cup. The fixture had been in some jeopardy due to last week’s inclement weather but following a pitch inspection on Saturday afternoon Coolhurst was passed as fit to play.
Horsham entered into the game in confident mood having already secured the Sussex Premier League title and having won all of their fixtures this season including League, Sussex Cup and National Cup.
The team and coaching staff were under no illusions that this was going to be their toughest fixture to date and so it proved to be. Winchester were an extremely physical, hard tackling, well drilled side. From the first minute they put Horsham under intense pressure and laid siege to the Horsham line. Horsham defended valiantly but following a yellow card meaning they were down to 14 men, the defences were finally breached and Winchester scored a converted try.
Horsham refused to be intimidated by their physical opponents and inch by inch made ground into Winchester’s territory. One infringement too many, from a Winchester forward resulted in a Horsham penalty from fly-half Joe Blake meaning the score was 7-3.
The pattern was set for the rest of the first half with Winchester being dominant in the forwards but Horsham having slightly more pace in the backs. There were to be two more scores in the first half being a penalty for Winchester and a try by centre Jem Minto following great carrying by Number 8 Hayden Brock. 10-8 to Winchester at half time.
The second half was if anything, fought even more fiercely than the first. No quarter was given by either team and whilst at times it appeared that Winchester were on top resulting in them scoring a further converted try and another penalty, Horsham simply refused to give up and let their opponents out of sight.
A spell of intense pressure on the Winchester line resulted in prop Tyrick Gonzague crashing over from close range. Following a Blake conversion the score was 20-15 to Winchester. At this point Horsham were finally in the ascendancy as fitness seemed to tell and following great combination play between backs and forwards, wing Max Paterson crossed the line to score the equalising try. The ensuing conversion was missed meaning the scores were tied at 20-20. Under the rules of the competition if scores are level at the end of the game then if a side has scored more tries than their opponent then they win the fixture. Horsham had scored three tries to Winchester’s two and the coaches got the message onto the team that they did not need to press for a score but simply contain Winchester. The team did this magnificently and when the ball was kicked into touch by outstanding scrum half Aaron Linfield at the final whistle there was a sense of both euphoria and relief.
Head Coach Tony Lewis said afterwards “I could not be more proud of the lads. This was without doubt their most severe test of the season as Winchester were an extremely combative well drilled side. The match was played fiercely but in a tremendous spirit and credit must go to both sides and indeed the Winchester coaching staff for this.
Whilst I don’t like to single players out it would be remiss of me not to mention the contribution of prop Josh Earle whose work rate was outstanding.
We await our opponents in the last 16 which equates to a final for all clubs within Sussex, Surrey, Kent and Hampshire. Reaching this stage is a great achievement by the team.”