A young Horsham side, playing five teenagers, secured a comfortable 40-3 away win at Lewes.
They found their hosts a tougher proposition than when they last met in October, having been strengthened by several players joining from Sussex University.
Dartfordians, their closest challengers, surprisingly lost at home to Old Dunstonians, and Horsham’s lead at the top of the table has now extended to eight points.
Horsham had six enforced changes from their last game due to injury and unavailability, and when experienced Number 8, Richard Tredgett left the field after 7 minutes with an ankle injury, the Green and Whites were having to dig deep into their resources.
Johnny Ordidge was forced to move into the pack, before later leaving the field injured, thus disrupting the settled three quarter line which has been one the foundations of Horsham’s success over recent months, but this only served to show the quality of the young former Colt’s players coming to the fore.
Kyle Fairs, Liam Brady, Joe Emson, Kyle Fuller and Declan Nwachukwu demonstrated that the future of Horsham rugby is in safe hands for years to come.
Top scorer Jamie Gibbs moved into the centre and notched his first try since December running a great line off Tom Johnson to score under the posts on 15 minutes, which Johnson converted. Lewes then pegged Horsham back with a penalty from Jon Pitts.
Horsham extended their lead when Sean Tuhakaraina burst through the middle
to score on 26 minutes later followed by a fine show and go from scrum half Josh Mills who scored his first try for Horsham 1st XV.
On the stroke of half time the Green and Whites secured their four try bonus point with a fine length of the field try. Lewes made a rare foray into the Horsham 22 metre area and when they turned ball over, rather than clear his lines Johnson launched a counter attack from his own try line. The ball was spun wide to Fuller who rounded his man and as the cover defence closed him down he put in a long perfectly weighted kick and Gibbs won the race to touch down and score his second. All four first half tries were converted by Johnson and Horsham went into the break leading 28-3.
The third quarter remained scoreless as a brave Lewes side never let their heads drop and Horsham were forced to absorb long periods of pressure in the middle part of the field but with the back row of Scott Price and Jordan Smith fiercely contesting the breakdown, the hosts did not have the penetration to break down a resolute Green and White defence.
The gloss was put on Horsham’s victory with a fine counter attack leading to London & South East Under 18 triallist, Nwachukwu, outpacing the defence to score a long distance try on his first team debut and then Joe Green grounded the ball following powerful scrum play, converted by Johnson, to seal the win.
Horsham coach Nick Stocker was happy after the game. “We had a lot of changes due to injuries, but the rest will give them a chance to recover for the difficult matches ahead.
I am delighted that we scored 40 points in difficult conditions against a young fit side having made five changes in the pack since we last played. Although we were clinical at times, we did not execute every opportunity however I was pleased with our enterprise and confidence under pressure.
Following the disruption I was very happy with the way Matt Stone and Giles Barber in the forwards, and Sean Tuhakaraina in the backs, stepped up into leadership roles during the game using their experience.
Tom Johnson was composed, putting us in the right positions, Joe Green was strong in the line out and around the park, Scott Price was a strong contender for man of the match but my choice does to Declan Nwachukwu. It is not often that players have the ability to step up from the Colts. He always looked to get involved and scored a very good try.”
Horsham’s next game is at home to Heathfield & Waldron on 7 February, who themselves are in a rich vein of form being on an eight match unbeaten run stretching back to mid November. The match is a double header being also the Bob Rogers Sussex Cup semi-final. Kick-off is at 2:30.
Horsham: Bell, Gibbs, Ordidge (Rush 40), Tuhakaraina, Nwachukwu; Johnson, Mills; Brady (Fairs 40), Stone, Barber; Green, Emson; Price, Smith, Tredgett (Fuller 7)