Not since the 1998-99 season have Horsham competed in a league as high as Beckenham but despite their recent resurgence the London side were again too strong for them.
Horsham coach Nick Stocker was sanguine in defeat; “We haven’t become a bad side overnight. We’re just going through a bad patch. We’ve lost a bit of form and we will recover it. We’ve got good depth this season and I’m not afraid to make changes if necessary.”
The floodlights were on from the outset in the gloom and the game was affected by the strong wind with flowing rugby at a premium.
From the kick off Beckenham misjudged the strength of the wind, and the ball went out on the full. Josh Mills received a thumping tackle as he linked with Andy Gray after the first scrum, and the physicality of the Beckenham defence, which is one of the tightest in the league, was evident. When the Green and Whites were penalised for offside at the scrum the hosts calmly slotted the kick to secure an early lead.
With Horsham playing into the elements they only made sporadic breakouts and when Joe Wilde, Will Bell and Mike Watts linked up they briefly looked threatening but too often the attack was snuffed out by a combination of handling errors and strong tackling by the home side.
Bell varied the play by making a great chip over his man which he regathered on the full to launch a multi-phase attack until the possession was turned over and Beckenham kicked long with the wind to relieve the pressure.
Gray was working hard to tidy up scraps of possession under huge opposition pressure but when he was penalised for not releasing on the floor, Beckenham’s long range penalty hit the outside of the upright to go harmlessly wide.
Mills was putting more pace on his game with sniping runs from quickly taken penalties when the chance arose but it was Beckenham who scored next with a well worked try in the corner.
Liam Yeates made an isolated break but with both sides receiving yellow cards it was Beckenham who finished the half on top, taking an 8-0 lead into the interval, wondering whether it would be enough as they faced the wind in the second half.
“The third quarter turned it”, Stocker said. “We went off the boil and made mistakes at key moments whereas they tightened up their game and scored a try”.
Rather against expectations Beckenham made light of the adverse conditions and applied the early pressure after half time. Following a period of good continuity their fly half hacked forward a loose ball and looked as if he had won the race to the touch down but the referee adjudged that there had been a knock on in the act of scoring.
Beckenham continued to attack with an effective rolling maul and Horsham were defending their try line for long periods. Beckenham incurred another yellow card giving Bell the chance to narrow the deficit from the half way line with the wind at his back but his attempt sailed narrowly wide.
Johnny Ordidge made a strong break toward the Beckenham line and when the hosts infringed at the breakdown, Bell made no mistake in front of the posts to narrow the deficit to 8-3 as Horsham fought to get back into the game temporarily against fourteen men. The revival however was short-lived and after strong runs by their winger and prop, Beckenham scored a try under the posts which was converted.
When Beckenham scored another penalty to take their lead to 18-3 after 68 minutes, Horsham were running out of time to overhaul the deficit and their attacks became increasingly desperate.
Horsham spun the ball right and Watts spilled the ball under pressure in the act of scoring in the corner and then Yeates was tackled into touch on the other side of the pitch.
Horsham finally crossed the line in the final minutes when Richard Tredgett scored having linked with his brother Mike, who had made a powerful break off the back of the scrum.
Stocker continued; “We did well to go into half time only 8-0 down playing into a tough wind but we didn’t execute effectively, gave up the ball too cheaply and our kicking game was not good enough. We created some good opportunities but coughed up the ball at critical times, but credit to Beckenham, they have a good scrum and driving maul and made it difficult for us.”
Horsham’s next fixture is at home to Old Alleynians on 19 December.
Horsham: Watts; Sheppard (N Bell), Ordidge, Yeates, Wilde; W Bell, Mills; Barber, Grantham-Hill (Price), Brady (Harcus); R Tredgett, Whiting; M Tredgett, Thompson, Gray.
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