Battersea Ironsides 17
Tries: Lovett, Myers, Hurley Con: Geraghty
With the light already fading and the rain continuing to fall, there were few expecting a game beyond that of an old-school affair, a grinding 80 minutes of forward play. For those braving the conditions to come down to DSP, this was a great chance to see how the home team would fare against one of the likely title-challengers in the newly-renamed ‘Surrey Premiership’.
Looking to establish a physical dominance from the off, Horsham sent their pack rolling, with big tackles from Simm and Pugh in the backrow keeping the succes of the early carries to a minimum. Taking 20 exhausting phases to make less than 20 metres, the home defensive line made effective use of the sidelines, bundling the opposition into touch. Not a team to be bullied, Dan Hyde’s pack responded in kind, cutting through the sodden DSP turf to make some hard yards before falling victim to the challenging conditions. Taking advantage of the slippery ball, the Horsham scrumhalf pounced on an uncharacteristic mistake from the Irons to put it down under the post. 7-0 to the visitors.
Keen to make amends, the ensuing kick-off saw Horsham bundled into touch, giving Ironsides the chance to enjoy some territory of their own. A huge scrum saw Horsham back-peddling, and a brace of scintillating runs from Adam Batt at outside centre and Matt Lovett on the wing bringing the home team within striking distance, missing only the clinical final touch. The pair combined soon after, following another enormous scrum from the Ironsides pack against the head, turning Horsham over just 15 metres out. Unleashing a crossfield kick that wouldn’t look out of place in Sexton’s arsenal, Ben Geraghty dropped the ball from height into the hands of an unsuspecting Horsham centre, with the chase from Batt giving Lovett the chance to scoop up and score. With the conversion, it was 7 points a piece with 20 minutes on the clock.
Making use of a strong tactical kicking game and a scintillating back 3, Horsham came back with a familiar fervour, pinning Irons on their 5-metre line. Trundling towards the Ironsides line, a certain try was only stopped with a fierce tackle from James Weaver on the visitors behemoth in the 2nd row. Not to be out-done by their partner in the pack, more opportunities were held up with a brace of outstanding stops from Tom Simm at 8 and Will Chisolm at tighthead, before an opportunistic interception from Peter Wilkin allowed Ironsides some breathing space, leaving Horsham to collect from deep to start all over again. The wall of defence could, however, only remain in-tact for so long, as the Horsham pack continued to grind out phase after phase, making it 14-7 to the visitors.
Full of attacking endeavour that belied the worsening conditions, Ironsides looked to keep themselves in the game by keeping Horsham pinned back in their own half. Entering a brief back-and-forth off the boot saw a fortunate bounce favouring the opposition, giving their chasing backs a simple run-in under the post, to make it 21-7. Had it not been for a fine covering tackle from Ceri Myers on Horsham’s fleet-footed blindside, the home-team might have gone in 3 tries down, with the game all but out of sight.
A ferocious start to the 2nd half saw the home pack looking to establish dominance once again, with tackles from captain, Dan Hyde, James Weaver and Chisholm drawing whoops of approval from the soaked supporters. Not even Horsham’s extended period of possession - drawing out 15 exhausting phases - could break the home defensive line, with an unrelenting chase from Josh Robinson putting the visitors under pressure in their own 22. Crunching defensive work from McBrier and Hyde gave Horsham little choice but to try to clear their lines, only for Geraghty to return the effort with interest. Putting a deft grubber into the corner saw O’Donnell collecting, twisting and turning through the Horsham defensive line before freeing Myers to touch down in the corner. 21-12 with time still to play.
Powerful running from Simm and Pugh, as well as outstanding tactical kicking from O’Donnell and Geraghty kept the visitors exactly where Ironsides wanted them. Pinned deep, any attempts to clear were met with either a big return or another clinical Ironsides lineout, but the light was fading fast. With the referee calling back a quickly-taken lineout due to not being able to see the ball, the Irons backline were increasingly reliant on passing cars and streetlamps to light the spaces out wide. Full of attacking intent, the delayed kick-off was starting to hurt any chances of an improbable come-back. Still time though.
Unwilling to settle for a well-fought loss, more combative chasing from Robinson saw a Horsham winger dragged down and into touch, giving Irons possession deep in the visitors half. A big effort from the pack saw each phase eating up the yards, before Niall Hurley crashed over from close range, bringing the score to 21-17 with seconds left on the clock. The unlikeliest of comebacks was, however, not to be with Horsham able to squeeze the Ironsides efforts to run from a deep kick-off into touch. An agonisingly-close end to a game that neither team deserved to lose.
“It was a good, hard fought game but we ultimately gave ourselves a lot to do in the second half against what was a well organised defence. There are plenty of positives to take from the game going into the rest of the season, especially the scrum and how we controlled the game in the second half. We’re looking forward to playing Horsham in the New Year, and building on the positives going into the next part of the season.” (Dan Hyde, Captain)
Ironsides: Barratt; Lovett, Batt, Myers, Robinson; Geraghty, Wilkin; Mac, Weaver, Chisholm, Hurley, Hyde (capt), McBrier, Pugh, Simm.
Replacements: Crowley, Wickham, O’Donnell
MOTM: Conor Mac
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