Joe Wilde lived up to his name in a frenzied try-scoring spree as Horsham thrashed Heathfield & Waldron to consolidate second place on Saturday.
Fresh from kicking duties last week, the Green and Whites man crashed five tries in their 68-17 London 2 South East victory.
Debutant Sam Hampson, Nick Bell, Aaron Linfield, Johnny Ordidge and Jonny Whiting all joined in the act, while Tom Johnson slotted nine conversions in a comprehensive display.
Having five usual starters missing did not deter the home side as the opened up a lead over third-placed Charlton Park, who could only manage a narrow 17-16 win at Thanet Wanderers.
Head coach Nick Stocker said: “Given the tightness of the league, it was important to secure a bonus point. With five regular starters missing and a couple of injuries still in recovery, the depth of the squad was tested with good performances across the team.
“While the early phases saw parity at the scrum given the wind making a lottery of the lineout, it was the pace and skill set of our offloading game that was the difference between both teams.
“Across the team we had solid ball carriers who in turn were well supported to keep the game flowing.
“It took an exceptional performance from Joe Wilde to earn himself the MOTM award. Scoring five tries, ranging from interceptions, outside breaks and loose ball returns, he is a real threat and making it a real competition for leading scorer in Declan Nwachukwu’s absence.
“Next week we have a tough away trip to Deal and Betteshangar, who we have never beaten at their place. If we intend to hold on to second spot, we must reverse that trend of recent years.”
The scoreboard was untroubled until 17 minutes when Wilde put in a deft dummy and pop pass to Hampson, who found the line. Johnson started a successful day with the boot in blustery conditions.
Four minutes later, Whiting gathered the ball from a quickly taken penalty and offloaded to Bell who drove over for a converted score.
A Whiting break was then passed to Linfield who still had work to do but – with another conversion – made it 21-0 on 30 minutes. That was before a Wilde interception saw him break away as Horsham added another seven points.
Wilde scored again one minute into the second half and four minutes later Ordidge barged his man out of the way to put down again.
A combination of errors from the restart saw Heathfield pull the score back to 40-7, but Whiting hit back immediately to score from an overthrown lineout and made the score 47-7 on 49 minutes.
Wilde put down two more converted tries, before Heathfield score five points to make it 61-12. But Wilde was at it again on 71 minutes, crossing for his fifth which Johnson converted, although there was just time for a battling Heathfield to score their third try at the death.
Horsham: Cass, Powell, Barber, Tredgett, Goward, Bell, Smith, Whiting, Linfield, Johnson, Hampson, Ordidge, Wilde, Pecharman, Condon. Subs: Fairs, Clarkson.