Horsham fell to a 32-18 defeat to Medway in Division 1 on Saturday but would have been heartened by an assured performance against a team perennially challenging for promotion.
From the kick-off Medway quickly got into their stride, pressurising the Horsham defence across the pitch.
But Horsham’s defence was up to this initial examination and gradually began to exert some control.
On 17 minutes the ball was popped off to Mike Tredgett to burst over the line for a try that went unconverted to make it 0-5
In the next play, Frankie Smith stepped up to convert a fine penalty into the breeze from the Medway ten metre line for 0-8.
This was swiftly followed by skipper for the day Johnny Goward showing a fine turn of pace to outpace the covering defence to score in the corner.
With the try converted by Smith, Medway appeared stunned and Horsham held a 15-0 lead after 21 minutes.
Medway altered their game plan and began to kick for territory and following a couple of penalties found themselves in the Horsham 22.
Horsham defended stoutly but when a lineout was turned over on the five metre line, the pick and go options sucked in defenders to give Medway their first converted try on 27 minutes to see the score at 7-15.
Five minutes later Horsham increased their lead via a Smith kick and with half-time approaching they aimed to keep their lead intact.
But on 35 minutes Tredgett was yellow carded for a high tackle and gave Medway a way back into the game.
Medway then secured a try off the back of a powerful maul in the corner to make it 14-18 with 36 minutes played.
Medway narrowed the lead to 17-18 just before half-time when the referee awarded a contested penalty at a scrum.
For the first time, on 48 minutes, Medway, secured the lead with a well taken penalty. The score was now 20-18 to Medway with 30 minutes to go.
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Medway went further ahead on 69 minutes. Medway’s clearance kick was fumbled on the halfway line, and they gained field position from which they crafted a well taken converted try to make it 27-18
Horsham upped the tempo and began to exert pressure of their own. A missed penalty on 71 minutes followed hot on the heels of a certain try with the pass adjudged forward.
But Medway weathered this storm and, on 78 minutes, moved the ball upfield and scored their bonus point try to take all five points.
Attack coach Richard Bell said: “We produced a dominant first 30 minute performance and had good control of the game in all facets.
“Vince Everitt and Mike Tredgett were causing Medway real problems with their powerful carrying and offloading.
“At 18-7 we were very comfortable but a yellow card before half-time allowed Medway to score with last play of the half.
“We asked for control and discipline unfortunately we didn’t get that, conceding eight penalties to Medway’s four in the second half.
“We became too frantic and chased the game at 20-18 down. With ten minuets to go we over-committed players to the breakdown, creating space in the wider channels for Medway in the last few minutes.
“We take a lot of positives particularly from the first half performance and will learn from this.
“The lads are disappointed because they know they should have won the game and to come away with nothing was very disappointing.
“Medway themselves reflected that the score flattered their team and whilst this is a positive, it doesn’t make it easier to swallow.
“This young side will keep improving. With eight of the squad aged 20 or under, it is great news for this season and in the future.
“Next up, we face old foes Dartfordians against whom we have had great matches in the past.
“With the first VP lunch of the season, we are expecting a big Horsham crowd and the opportunity to return to winning ways.”