Horsham’s flickering promotion hopes were finally extinguished with a 41-20 defeat to Folkestone on Saturday.
The Green and Whites were strangely subdued and clearly did not have the same stomach for the fight as Folkestone, who were fired up to reverse their defeat to Horsham in December.
The forward power, which has been the platform of Horsham’s resurgence this season, deserted them when it mattered most, as the Folkestone pack refused to be bullied across the park as in the previous encounter.
Horsham’s coach Nick Stocker said: “I was very disappointed with our performance. We were far below our normal levels of intensity and Folkestone were far more alert and passionate about their game. Jonny Whiting ran some good lines but we were too slow in support. “In summary our performance was not of the standard required against a team that has not beaten us for two years.”
Folkestone showed their intent from kick off and the hosts needed tackles from Matt Brown and Will Johnston to prevent certain tries, but the visitors then struck with two quick-fire scores to lead 12-0.
The game was now end to end and Horsham showed that they could score an excellent try of their own when the ball passed through several sets of hands for prop Giles Barber to score in the left hand corner and Will Bell slotted over his conversion.
Folkestone immediately responded with another try, but Horsham bounced back when Johnson committed two players to put Will Bell over in the left hand corner for the fifth try scored in 16 minutes.
Folkestone were still in the ascendancy and scored again to lead 22-12 at half-time.
Horsham started the second half with greater intensity, but only had a successful Matt Brown drop kick to show for their period of pressure.
Folkestone’s confident and fluent handling saw them add a further three tries and a sin bin for James Whiting didn’t help Horsham’s cause, though Matt Stone scored a late consolation try after a powerful surge by Ben Pirt.
Although the club’s promotion hopes have now all but faded, Horsham still have their highest league finish to play for since they returned to the London Leagues in 2007, and the chance of silverware in the Bob Rogers Sussex Final against Lewes in April.
Horsham will be looking to avenge their early season defeat in their next game away to Dartfordians on Saturday March 8.
Horsham: Talbot, Stone, Barber (Fairs 67); Grover, Goward; Pirt, Bell (Green 28), Jonathan Whiting; Rush, Brown; James Whiting, Ordidge, Taylor; Johnson (Chalk 67).