Horsham completed the most successful season in their history by retaining the Bob Rogers Cup having already won the London League 3 SE championship.
The game was a fascinating gauge as to how Horsham might fare when they join Crowborough in a higher league next season.
Both sides were missing key players through injury and had to delve deep into their squads with Horsham fielding four colts from the last two seasons.
Captain Paul Talbot, powerful back row Michael Tredgett and top try scorer Jamie Gibbs were all unavailable, and influential centre Sean Tuhakaraina following a leg break in February was making his comeback on the bench.
To reach the final Crowborough have battled through some tight encounters over the last few weeks but nothing will have prepared them for the intensity of Horsham’s early onslaught. From the first scrum with the technique of Giles Barber, Matt Stone and Liam Brady in the front row to the fore, and the power coming from Jonny Goward and Joe Green in the engine room of the second row, Horsham drove back the opposition pack but Crowborough were able to get the ball away.
After five minutes and following a line out the ball was spun right and Arun Thompson broke through a gap out wide and stepped his man to score the first try which was converted by Johnson. Straight from receiving the kick off James Whiting followed a great pick up with a 30 yard break to pass to Declan Nwachukwu but he was immediately stopped by a high tackle, and Johnson slotted the penalty.
Then Jonny Whiting picked up from the base of a wheeling scrum, and scrum-half Ben Rush committed the back row defence to put Nwachukwu in the clear who outpaced the cover and side stepped the final defender, giving Horsham a 15-0 lead after twelve minutes.
After a good period of play from Crowborough, Will Bell went close to scoring in the right hand corner. From the ensuing line out Horsham launched a catch and drive which was finished by Rush, and after 27 minutes the Green and Whites were leading 20-0. When Crowborough spilt the ball in the tackle Johnson was the first to pounce and the ball was spun wide to Josh Mills who made good ground with a grubber kick. From this position James Whiting ran a direct line off a delayed pass from Johnson to score under the posts.
Horsham were making a clear statement of intent against a higher ranked side in the league and reached half time with a commanding 27-0 lead.
With the game appearing to be won Horsham were able to make a number of changes from the bench. Johnson broke through and when faced with just the full back to beat he floated a long pass out to Nwachukwu who scored his second try in the corner.
On 63 minutes Iain Fisher scored after a spectacular diving flip back inside by Johnson as he was going out of play, following an Ordidge break off turnover ball which was carried on by Thompson, to take the score to 37-0.
Crowborough scored a consolation try through Gus O’Grady as Horsham briefly fell off a few tackles but Horsham were determined to finish strongly with Joey Walker coming on at fly half and delaying his pass to draw the defenders on to him and allow Sean Tuhakaraina to burst through to score under the posts to take the score to a resounding 44-5.
Horsham coach Nick Stocker said “It was a great way to end the season. At the beginning of the season the job was to get promoted and retaining the cup was the icing on the cake. I asked the players to play with fire, passion and confidence, and they certainly put on a show. I feel very proud to be associated with these guys.
It was a full squad effort however if I had to single out three players who were exceptional it would be Tom Johnson for his sprinkle of stardust, Arun Thompson for his outstanding athleticism and Richard Tredgett for his control and the hits he made”.
Horsham Team: W Bell; Nwachukwu, James Whiting, Ordidge, Mills; Johnson, Rush; Brady, Stone, Barber; Green, Goward; Tredgett (capt), Thompson, Jonny Whiting. Replacements: Fisher, Fairs, N Bell, Smith, Price, Tuhakaraina, Walker