Free scoring Horsham racked up another impressive 47-15 bonus point win at home to Sussex rivals Uckfield on Saturday.
The victory maintains Horsham’s narrow one point lead at the head of the table from Dartfordians, with the league season having reached the halfway point, as daylight starts to open up between the top two and the chasing pack following Bromley’s loss at home to Folkestone.
This was the fifth time that the Green and Whites have scored more than forty points in a league match this season and the side are playing with increasing confidence knowing that despite the number of disruptions due to injury, especially in the forwards, there are players capable of stepping in without affecting the team’s pattern of play.
Horsham scored seven tries in their win with the first coming after their customary fast start. Uckfield were penalised for being off their feet at the ruck and Tom Johnson made a long kick to the corner. From the line-out the Green and Whites went through several phases until on 5 minutes, after a dummy move in midfield following a scrum, Johnson found Jamie Gibbs cutting a good angle who raced through to cross the line. Johnson then added the conversion in off the post.
James Whiting made a fine run but was unable to find his supporting runners as Horsham continued to attack and despite stout defence it was 15 minutes before Uckfield touched the ball in Horsham’s half.
On 23 minutes Sean Tuhakaraina was able to turn pressure into points when he dummied his man to open up the defence and score under the posts for his seventh try of the season.
Uckfield scored a good try themselves following some good continuity to take advantage of a missed tackle, but then Horsham bounced back immediately when they worked a move in midfield to create space for James Whiting to be put through a gap to race through under the posts.
Nick Bell was proving a constant thorn in the side of the Uckfield half backs as he spoiled and harried but after a period of pressure, and the award of a succession of penalties the opposition eventually drove over the Horsham line on the stroke of half-time to narrow the deficit to 21-10.
Horsham maintained the pressure at the start of the second half in the search for the bonus point. There was a powerful forward drive over the line which was held up, and then Michael Tredgett picked up from the base of the scrum and was again held up and turned over. Horsham then drove back the Uckfield scrum and the visitors tried to clear their lines and kicked for touch under pressure. From a subsequent Horsham scrum, Uckfield were penalised for a deliberate knock on, and Johnson kicked for the corner to create another attacking position. After a long period of sustained pressure Ben Pirt finally crossed the line to score off the back of a driving maul.
Uckfield scored a good try attacking the blind side off a scrum before Horsham took control for the final twenty minutes adding a further three tries.
Iain Fisher crashed over the line after great phase play involving forwards and backs. Johnson made a great pick up and rounded his man but was tackled in to touch. Johnny Ordidge made a powerful break through the middle, and then after good work by the forwards going through several phases, Tuhakaraina threw a wide pass to Gibbs to race away to score which was converted from the touch line by Johnson.
Gibbs then completed his hat-trick with a training ground miss move in the centre of the pitch crossing the line untouched, which Johnson again converted with the help of the uprights.
Horsham coach Nick Stocker said “We had to wear down a good opposition. Their pick and go was effective and they were an aggressive side in the contact area. They were good at spoiling, had a strong scrum and never gave up.
It took a while before we got on top up front and we had to earn the right to go wide where we eventually created some good tries. Our speed of ball was excellent, we stretched their defence and ran hard at gaps.
This was a good victory for the squad and the fringe players had to step up and fit into our patterns.
We did however get caught at times with our fringe defence and our support at the breakdown could be improved.
I thought Iain Fisher had a great game. He won 100% of his line out ball, cleared up a lot of loose ball on the floor and capped it by scoring a fine try.
Michael Tredgett gives us go forward ball whilst at the same time slowing down their ball and made a number of big hits.
Paul Talbot played well despite being only half fit and Jamie Gibbs score a good hat-trick.
This now sets us up well for the local derby against Pulborough next week.”
Horsham: W Bell, Gibbs, Tuhakaraina, Ordidge, Whiting; Johnson, Rush (Mills 60); Talbot (capt), Fisher, Barber; Green, Goward (Smith 40); Pirt, N Bell (Stone 54), Tredgett