Horsham rattle league leaders but succumb to narrow defeat

Declan Nwachukwu scored a hat-trick for Horsham in their narrow defeat at Westcombe Park. Picture courtesy of Richard Ordidge
Declan Nwachukwu scored a hat-trick for Horsham in their narrow defeat at Westcombe Park. Picture courtesy of Richard Ordidge

Horsham gave the league leaders a huge scare going in to the final ten minutes in the lead before Westcombe Park completed a well worked try to win 27-23.

Westcombe Park are an ambitious club and make no secret of their desire to return to play National League rugby at the earliest opportunity and are currently on track to achieve that goal.

Head coach Nick Stocker reflected after the game: “Ultimately a disappointing result given the loss, but a very pleasing performance from every Horsham player.

“We required a reaction following the poor performance at Belsize last time out and produced a display full of aggression, physicality and skill that rattled the league leaders.”

After a poor start at Belsize Park last week Horsham exploded out of the blocks. A good counter attack from turnover ball on Westcombe Park’s ten metre line and phase play saw a Joe Wilde line break and Declan Nwachukwu on hand to finish well under the posts with the try converted by Tom Johnson.

Westcombe Park responded with three tries in 11 minutes. Joel Medcraft was the first to score with a try conceded by Horsham from a first phase scrum when the ball was spun wide and the visitors were caught too narrow.

Bradley Saffery added a try shortly afterwards when misfortune struck the Green and Whites following a Horsham knock back falling fortuitously into opposition hands and then spun wide.

The third try conceded in a short space of time was scored on the outside by Sean Beckett from great counter attacking play with multiple carries and offloads showing the threat of the team in space. Fortunately for Horsham all three conversion attempts were missed otherwise the score line would have taken on a different hue as Westcombe Park led 15-7 after 24 minutes.

Horsham took this opportunity to bring on young former colt Ian Paku for his debut as Michael Tredgett left the field injured which was followed by good phase play and saw the ball moved left and right before Nwachukwu came in on the opposite wing to burst through three defenders to finish well.

The Green and Whites were now in the ascendancy and with a front peel Nick Bell, playing out of position at hooker was stopped in the act of scoring.

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Many spectators felt this was an extremely dubious decision as it was a no arms tackle to his head and Bell was required to leave the field for a head injury assessment and was replaced by Josh Earle in another enforced change early in the game.

There was still time for two further tries before the break in a high scoring half. Piers Johnson scored for Westcombe Park securing their bonus point, and then Horsham narrowed the deficit to 20-17 following a scything kick return by Joe Wilde who put Nwachukwu away for his hat trick.

Horsham levelled the scores through Johnson with a kick following a scrum penalty and then edged ahead to 23-20 as the game entered its final quarter, but the Green and Whites were unable to hold on to their lead and conceded.

Stocker added: “Our scrum proved dominant and despite the changes in personnel, the lineout secured possession needed to build pressure.

“With both teams looking to spread the play, it made for a fascinating contest most notably on the wings.

"That said, the Westcombe winger was lucky to remain on the field given the illegal tackle on Nick (Bell) that on another day should have seen a red card and a penalty try which on 30 minutes would have had a significant impact on the game’s outcome.

“Nonetheless, Horsham will take great energy from this performance.

“Leading with ten minutes to play it took a well composed set of phases to score from their only foray into our 22 metre area in the second half and credit to Westcombe Park’s players for executing under pressure.

“Next week we have the opportunity to repeat the performance and hopefully get a better result when we entertain high flying Havant.”