Eastbourne Rugby Club failed to capitalise on a recent resurgence in form, despite a spirited performance at Martin’s Field.
The Blue and Golds were forced into several significant positional changes, holding their own until a disappointing period on the half hour mark.
Indeed for long periods in both halves, both sides displayed open fluid rugby, but Eastbourne only had themselves to blame after a flurry of handling and tactical errors.
In the early exchanges it became apparent that Joe Tobin’s move to prop was proving problematic, the Eastbourne skipper struggled to find his feet in the make-shift line-up. Other changes were more successful; Brady proved his worth in the second row and the adaptable Nathan Ring moved to No.8; the fourth shirt number Ring has worn this season. Behind the scrum, the return of Steve Clarke was long awaited and his steely defence was a feature of the match.
One missed penalty on each side meant that the first quarter was evenly poised. But after a harsh penalty decision, the dominant Horsham scrummage drove forward to the line giving their No.8 the easiest of scores.
A successful conversion put the visitors in the driving seat and they made the most of their momentum. Moments later another powerful drive from the Horsham front row put points on the board; this time the left wing was launched from close in with the Eastbourne defence powerless to stop him.
After the break, and following stern words from the coaches, Eastbourne introduced Jon Oakey back to the fray and the forwards pushed on.
During the next 30 minutes, it was only last ditch Horsham defence that kept Eastbourne at bay. Bettles, Redman and Brady all came close but the Horsham line remained intact. Eventually, it was the Eastbourne line-out that faltered with five to go and following a steal on halfway, clever hands by the Horsham fly half put his centre through for the third and final try.
Another defeat that propels Eastbourne further into the relegation mire.
But solid performances by Imich, Mills and Cheater ensured that there were some positives to come from the game and these will be taken into the must-win match at Bromley on January 14th.
Eastbourne: Imich, Mills, Tobin, Hallyer, Brady, Stratford, Redman, Ring, Plantrose, Coulthard, Bettles, Clarke, Cheater, Smith, Baldwin, Oakey, Bettles, Jones
MoM Will Bettles – always posed a threat