Horsham’s long journey to the Isle of Sheppey was ultimately fruitless with defeat against a side seeking to secure the second automatic promotion place.
In atrocious conditions of driving rain and sleet, and a strong easterly wind blowing in from the North Sea with a wind chill of several degrees below zero, the Green and Whites put in a battling performance but lost 22-3.
Coach Nick Stocker said: “This result against Sheppey shows where we are at as a side. Indeed Sheppey could not believe that we have now lost ten league games this season.
“We are showing a lack of consistency and need to play with a more steely edge and bloody mindedness week in week out.
The direction of the wind meant that Horsham had a slight advantage in the first half. Within minutes of kick-off captain Matt Brown grabbed the ball from Wilde, who was about to kick for touch, took a quick tap and made a break and then following a strong carry from Whiting secured the position for a penalty which Wilde slotted over in the fifth minute for what proved to be Horsham’s only score of the match.
Horsham then spilled the ball from the resulting kick-off, leading to the Sheppey left winger Dave Marsden scoring in the corner.
Shortly afterwards Sam Bell made a strong run following a loose kick by Sheppey but his pass was not held. Strong tackles by Nick Bell and Alex Brew kept Sheppey at bay, and when in possession Brown bravely chose to tap and go rather than kick for position but the Sheppey defence held firm.
Horsham were trying to play the more expansive rugby of the two sides in difficult conditions and on the occasion when Sheppey ventured into Horsham’s half, Brew made an excellent break to relieve the pressure.
When finally there was the award of a penalty within kicking range, and possibly take the lead, Horsham chose to run the ball, and the attack was snuffed out. After Paul Talbot was yellow carded after 35 minutes, Horsham were happy to see out the half 5-3 down.
Within two minutes of the restart Joe Willis scored for Sheppey after a series of pick and drives.
Horsham continued their strategy of running penalties, and Whiting made hard yards, but a kick and chase half the length of the pitch following a lack of control by Horsham, almost lead to another Sheppey try. Still from this position, Charlie Wardzynski kicked a penalty to put Sheppey two scores ahead and John Kelly then added a further try and the hosts took the points.