Tunbridge Wells 45 Horsham 14
Regional 1 South Central
Horsham continue to seek an elusive first win at level five, and while their previous games secured four bonus points, the away trip to Tunbridge Wells resulted in a chastening defeat with nothing to show.
Electing to play up the slope and against the wind, Horsham were keen to prevent a repeat of the previous games by gifting the opposition big leads.
The plan largely worked and although Wells secured a two-try lead after 11 minutes, the indications were that Horsham were more than capable of a result.
Errors by both sides dominated the game in what was a very scrappy affair and ultimately this was Horsham's undoing as any entry into Wells' territory saw the ball turned over and kicked back into Horsham territory.
Despite this, Horsham scored via Marcus Condon following defensive pressure and having conceded a third try on 27 minutes, the whistle for half-time blew with the score a modest 19-7 – and with Horsham still very much in the game.
The second half, however, proved to be more frustrating than the first.
Wells' eradicated their error count and Horsham's travails continued, particularly at lineout which appeared disjointed when mauling.
Wells began to score at regular intervals – on 45, 55, 70 and 75 minutes – with some long range efforts demonstrating the threat posed.
Despite Jack Osgood scoring a good try on the back of a series of strong forward carries on 60 minutes, Horsham had been well beaten and will need to bounce back from this defeat quickly as they head into the fourth round of fixtures this weekend.
Head of rugby Nick Stocker cut a frustrated figure following the match.
He said: “Our unforced error count was huge, meaning we could not retain any possession.
"Couple that with below-par energy levels and you begin to see the recipe for a tough afternoon.
"On the bright side, we managed to prevent the opposition opening up an unassailable lead in the first 20 minutes and in the dying throes, when playing for pride, we looked dangerous.
"In addition, within the raft of changes to the team, we saw some good signs of players that are able to step up to this level, including three positive debuts, two of which were from players who are only 18 and 20 years old.
"The boys were frustrated with how the day went.
"We will work hard in the week to rectify this and as we see our availability improve, we need to make sure that the improvement we seek is brought to bear for a full 80 minutes.
"Anything less at this level and we will be punished.
"Luckily enough we have the opportunity to set things right when we host CS Stags at home at the weekend."
Horsham are bottom of the table after these first three games but are by no means cut adrift and Saturday’s visitors are just two places and two points better off, making it a vital match for both teams.
Winchester 26 Chichester 12
Regional 2 South Central
by Simon Tanner
The final scoreline didn’t really reflect a strong Chi performance in a competitive game.
The Blues made six changes to the team that lost against London Irish as Joe Shopland, Ken Dowding and Ben Polhill came into the pack, Napolini Rabale returned in the backs with Alex Einchomb and Fin West on the bench. Polhill, 45, was making his 400th appearance for the 1st XV.
Rhys Thompson got the match underway. Blues applied early pressure and advanced into the opposition half with some slick passing.
From a lineout Chichester moved the ball across the field and a Thompson pass to Josh Stops created a gap for the young Aussie to score, converted by Dom Taylor.
Blues were struggling in the ruck and on 14 minutes the first of many infringements provided Winchester with a penalty in front of the posts,
With nearly half an hour gone Blues conceded another penalty to reduce their lead to 6-7.
Rabale was looking dangerous after his 11 months on the sidelines, but Winchester remained resolute.
On 45 minutes a superb 50-22 gave Winchester a lineout close to Chichester’s try line. It was executed perfectly and the ball was mauled over for a converted try.
The ball was returned nearly 50 metres before a high tackle had the referee reaching for his yellow card, reducing Chichester to 14.
The penalty was kicked to touch but rather than reprising the maul the ball was passed out to the winger to score under the posts, converted, 20-7.
A jinking run saw Stops beat four players before being felled a few metres from the try line. Wily Ken Dowding took a quick tap penalty and charged over the line to score, 20-12.
Penalties at the breakdown gave Winchester the opportunity to increase the lead to 26-12.
Winchester had the best chance as the seconds ticked away with their pack mauling over the line only for the ball to be held up by a last ditch Chichester defence.
Blues MoM: Joe Hunter.
Chichester entertain Newbury Blues at Oaklands Park on Saturday (3pm).
- SIMON TANNER