Bell rings just in time to keep Horsham’s top two hopes alive

Will Bell again punished Ashford with his kicking
Will Bell again punished Ashford with his kicking

Horsham recorded their first ever double against Ashford, the league leaders going into the game.

In a dramatic finale Will Bell slotted a difficult long range penalty under huge pressure to record a 19-17 victory in front of a large home crowd of 160.

It was a great day for the club which saw all three teams win at home in pursuit of their respective title challenges.

This was a must win game for Horsham, who needed the result more than Ashford and ensures that the Green and Whites remain in contention for one of the two promotion places at the top of London 3 South East.

Horsham raced into a substantial early lead and for the first 30 minutes played with a display of controlled power and intensity that the Ashford supporters admitted they had not faced this season.

But as in the game at Ashford in October, the Green and Whites were left hanging on at the end. Horsham now need to find a way of sustaining this level of performance for the entire game.

Horsham coach Nick Stocker said: “I thought for 30 minutes we were outstanding, and the driving maul which led to our try was excellent. “We then had a little blip just before half-time and a missed tackle, when they flooded through our defence and supported well, allowed them to get their tails up.

“In the second half we were loose in kicking to their runners and we didn’t chase well.

“It was a good ding dong battle between two very good sides and a very good performance by ourselves. I thought on balance we just deserved to win.”

Ashford started brightly and initially looked threatening when spreading the ball wide and not committing too many players to the breakdown, but a probing kick by Matt Goodsir, which was chased hard by Jamie Gibbs followed by his tackle, turned defence into attack. Moments later Matt Stone showed a turn of pace when following up a kick by Aled Price to create a good attacking position for Horsham.

On seven minutes Horsham showed good composure to catch and drive from the line out for Jonny Ordidge to score a try which was converted by Will Bell.

Sam Bell was then forced to leave the field on 16 minutes having suffered a stinger but Horsham did not appear affected by the disruption as fine pressure from the forwards allowed his brother Will to slot two penalties and Ordidge to punch holes through the middle.

Will Bell then also suffered a knock and Price took over the kicking duties on 30 minutes to put Horsham into a 16-0 lead.

Ashford’s three quarters had looked threatening with limited possession and then started to mount a fight back as their centre sliced through the Horsham defence to off load for Number 8 Dan Brown to score.

On the stroke of half time Ashford fly half JJ Murray opened Horsham up but his pass was knocked on and what looked to be a certain score went begging, and a rattled Horsham went into the break 16-7 up.

Momentum appeared to have swung in Ashford’s direction as Gary Croxton slotted a penalty following the restart and then Matt Stone was yellow carded for not using his arms in the tackle.

Ashford then added their second try on 60 minutes through centre Grant Burden to touch down under the posts after a poor field kick and chase by Horsham, and Croxton added the conversion to give the visitors a 17-16 lead, in a comeback which had appeared unlikely early in the first half.

This appeared to spur Horsham into action as their season hung in the balance. Jonny Whiting burst through several tackles in a strong 30 yard break, and when Ashford lost a player to the sin bin for the last ten minutes, Will Bell had the chance to regain the lead but his penalty attempt fell just short.

On 79 minutes Will Bell, who had been a thorn in Ashford’s side with a virtuoso kicking display earlier in the season, then kicked a long range penalty from close to the touch line to regain the lead.

There was still time in the final minute for Ashford to win the game when Horsham conceded a penalty but the attempt at goal fell just short.

Will Bell was named Horsham’s man of the match for his kicking under pressure and control of the game at fly half.

Horsham’s next game is at home to Uckfield on Saturday January 18 in the semi-finals of the Bob Rogers Sussex Cup.

Horsham: Talbot (capt), Stone (Penfold 70), Barber; Grover, Whiting; Smith, Pirt (Fisher 50), Ordidge; Rush, W Bell; Taylor, Price, S Bell, Gibbs; Goodsir (Goward 55)