Horsham RUFC U15s were crowned County Champions after beating Brighton in a nail-biting finale to an enthralling season.
Rampaging Horsham forwards Sam Jewell and Max Wright applied early pressure, cutting down opposing runners and securing vital possession. Simon Powell delivered a bone-shaking tackle to one of Brighton’s giant locks and Alfie Burchfield battled across the gain line, but the green-and-whites were unable to convert territorial advantage into points. A scything run through the midfield from one of Brighton’s speedsters caught the Horsham backs out of position, as he raced in under the posts for the game’s opening try. After a simple conversion Brighton led 7-0.
This was an outstanding performance against an excellent sideDayle Kirby
The Horsham players rallied, launching repeated forays into their opponents’ half. As the Blues conceded a penalty for being offside at the ruck, wily Horsham scrum half Aaron Linfield spotted a weakness on the narrow side of the pitch and raced towards the try line. As the defenders converged, he slipped the pass to powerful No. 8 George Cook, who crashed over the line to reduce the deficit to just 2 points. Captain Joseph Blake narrowly missed the conversion from the touchline. Eddie Grogan and Ricardo Vasconcelos spearheaded the Horsham defence, helping the West Sussex team to weather a battering from the Brighton ball carriers. The first half finished with the green-and-whites 5-7 down but growing in confidence.
Fresh players Hayden Brock and Luke Powell entered the fray after the break and immediately made an impact at the set pieces and in open play. Ever-reliable hooker Peter Barry stole crucial possession, enabling Henry Skipton-Carter and Dale Connellan to test Brighton’s defence with their searing pace. Desperate for the go-ahead score, fullback Charlie Best jinked his way towards the try line, and seemed to have been enveloped by a swarm of blue jerseys, until the determined Horsham pack drove him over the whitewash. Blake duly added the extra 2 points to give his team a 12-7 lead.
Playing cleverly with the lead and the slope now, Horsham pressed its advantage, very nearly sealing the result when the flying Max Paterson out-leapt his opposite number for the cross-field kick. Eagle-eyed referee Ben McNamara judged Paterson to have been offside. Still with the scent of victory in the air, the irrepressible Vincent Everitt hurled himself through a gap in Brighton’s defence, fended off despairing would-be tacklers, and scored at the foot of the posts. Blake again tapped over the conversion, and Horsham were now 19-7 ahead and 12 long minutes from a momentous win.
The Brighton players were not about to hand over the title lightly, and Horsham replaced tired legs with the athletic figure of Dan Phelps, who towered in the lineout, and courageous Rory Beeby. A beautifully judged chip was gathered by one of Brighton’s dangerous runners, and he scampered over the line for a late try. The conversion sailed over the upright and Horsham’s lead was cut to just 5 points at 19-14. As Brighton attempted to run out of defence, plucky replacement scrum half Jack Penny brought down a player several inches taller than himself, whilst at the other end of the pitch, the quick thinking of Will Evans denied the Blues another score from a kick-ahead. Replacement fly half Lewis Kirby hauled down the scorer of the first try to the delight of the Horsham supporters and uncharacteristic errors crept into Brighton’s play as the clock counted down. As the final whistle sounded, the Horsham players embraced, ecstatic that they had finally triumphed over their East Sussex rivals.
After the match, Horsham Head Coach Dayle Kirby praised his squad: “This was an outstanding performance against an excellent side. The whole squad, including those unable to play today, has worked hard throughout the season and in the build-up to this match. Winning today is unbelievable!”