Horsham came unstuck at home to Dartfordians, one of the form sides in the league and enjoying an excellent season after promotion from Kent League One, in a game they felt they should have won.
Horsham cling on to third position in the table with a game in hand on the league leaders, but the Green and Whites need to put a series of wins together if the season is not to become another of disappointment.
In an error strewn start, but in perfect rugby conditions, Horsham knocked on after receiving the kick-off, and Dartfordians moved the ball wide and looked likely to score before they were called back after a forward pass.
Although Horsham’s back line was disrupted by Matt Brown’s injury after only seven minutes, and despite going into the wind, the Green and Whites were playing with a greater dynamism and urgency than recent weeks.
The pressure soon yielded results when Will Johnson counter attacked after fielding a clearance kick, and after a wide pass from Jonny Ordidge, Matt Goodsir fixed the defence to give Jamie Gibbs the space to race in for a try which was converted by Will Bell.
With Horsham aggressive in defence, Dartfordians were unable to create any openings, and when resorting to a kick over the top, Johnson gratefully received the loose ball to sprint up the left wing and outpace the cover defence, but when a try looked certain his pass was dropped. Horsham continued to dominate the scrummage, possession and field position and were playing at a pace not seen for a few games but due to poor execution with their handling, the hosts only went into the break 7-0 ahead.
“They kept us to a low score at half time in a game of fine margins,” coach Nick Stocker asserted. “We were in control in the first half but failed to convert the opportunities we created and this came back to haunt us.”
In a change of tactics Dartfordians used their big forwards to run directly at the heart of the home defence and a penalty and a try soon levelled the scores at 10-10.
Goodsir kicked through to turn the Dartfordians back-line but the opportunity was not capitalised upon, and then the most significant moment of the match occurred when Johnson tackled the opposing winger into touch, who clearly felt aggrieved by the force of the tackle, and responded with a flurry of punches to Johnson, who was not yet on his feet and back turned to leave him dazed on the ground.
Horsham’s captain and talisman Paul Talbot then retaliated and both players were controversially sent off.
Both sides exchanged penalties and Horsham continued to squander opportunities when Ordidge caught the restart, beat a couple of defenders to put Jonny Goward into space to run down the touchline but the supporting player overran the pass when a try looked certain.
In a game of tight margins Horsham failed to keep the scoreboard ticking over, and spurned a kickable penalty opportunity before missing another good chance, and the visitors then scored a final converted try to seal an unlikely victory.
Stocker added: “We should have taken our kicks at goal when we had the opportunity.” And he added: “We didn’t however convert our chances to score and we allowed them to capitalise on our unforced errors and silly mistakes. My biggest disappointment is our handling and game management.”
Jordan Smith was Horsham’s man of the match.
Horsham: Day, Grantham-Hill, Talbot (Barber 65); Goward, Grover; Smith, N Bell (Fisher 55), Ordidge; Rush, W Bell; Gibbs, Brown (Brooker 7), Price, Johnson; Goodsir.