Horsham edge blockbuster top-of-the-table battle against Charlton Park despite late nerves

Tom Johnson in action for Horsham 34-15 win at home to Deal & Betteshanger. Picture by Clive Turner SUS-180111-093337001
Tom Johnson in action for Horsham 34-15 win at home to Deal & Betteshanger. Picture by Clive Turner SUS-180111-093337001

Horsham edged their blockbuster battle at Charlton Park on Saturday but head coach Nick Stocker admitted nerves were jangling in the closing stages of the crucial clash.

The Green and Whites travelled to the capital for the London 2 South East fixture that was likely to go a long way to deciding who would finish runners-up this season.

Horsham secured a 40-34 victory, although made hard work of it in the closing stages having had Declan Nwachukwu shown a red card for a dangerous tackle and Park pulled back to within four points at one stage.

The visitors held out, however, to notch their 11th win from 15 games this season and leapfrog their opponents into second on points difference – both having a tally of 56 in the league.

Stocker said: “The tense first quarter showed no signs of the drama to follow and that 12 tries would be shared between two very committed sides. Ultimately, it was a great game of rugby although we should have killed it off more effectively when leading 19-33 with 20 minutes to play.

“Instead, we started making silly errors and gifted possession to a side whose big ball carriers are a handful and need no second invitation to play. This put pressure on our defence later on which ultimately made the game closer than it needed to be. Until then, our defence was excellent with a physicality that caused problems all day as witnessed by both Joe Wilde’s tries.

“In attack we were clinical taking the opportunities we created and even managed to leave a couple of easy tries out there which would have calmed the nerves.”

After early Charlton Park pressure, the visitors led against the run of play when Nwachukwu and Dan Cass scored, the latter of which was converted by man of the match Tom Johnson.

A Joe Wilde try from an interception followed with a Johnson conversion, but Park rallied and capitalised on an error for Terry Read to score and pull the score back to 19-5 at half-time.

At the start of the second half, Nwachukwu raced over for a converted try, before Jake Conway responded with the same for the home side to put the score at 26-12. A lucky bounce then saw Park’s Reion Raybe cross and the conversion meant there were just seven points in it.

From the restart, Wilde ran in to score and Johnson added the extras on 62 minutes.

Nwachukwu was then sent off and Rob Saunderson scored two tries in quick succession for Park to bring the score back to 33-29.

A 20-yard Everitt run gave Horsham some breathing space with two minutes to play, and while Park scored again through Sanderson, the visitors held out.

Horsham: Cass, T.Powell, N.Bell, Tredgett, Osgood, Smith, Everitt, Redmayne, Linfield, J.Bell, Nwachukwu, T.Johnson, Wilde, Pecharman, Condon. Subs: Barber, Goward, Double.