Match report by Colin Coulson, photos Andy Wales
This weekend was game twenty one in the league, but due to severe weather up and down the country several games were postponed. Here in the south-east the snow that had fallen in the week had disappeared and Raiders’ game at London Irish was able to go ahead on an almost perfect pitch.
Matt Walsh and Curtis Barnes both returned to the squad.
Saturday was dry, sunny, breezy and cold, an open game was expected.
Raiders kicked off with the wind on their backs and made a good start controlling possession and field position for the first five minutes. As often seems to happen the good start didn’t produce any points for the visitors and after ten minutes the home side scored a converted try.
Probably it’s fair to say the rest of the half belonged to Raiders who kept the home side under pressure in their own territory.
Just before the end of the first quarter Raiders secured an excellent turnover at a ruck, Ben Holt used George Hammond up the blindside. George offloaded perfectly in the tackle to release Curtis Barnes, who outpaced the initial defenders then fed the ball inside to Matt McLean who raced forty metres to touchdown. Matt converted to tie the scores at 7-7.
Within a few minutes Raiders took the lead. From a scrum on the Irish twenty two metre line a set move saw Tom Miller feed Harry Barlow who cut a great line to split the defence and race in unopposed. Matt added the extras, 7-14.
Raiders looked dangerous with the ball in hand and Kiba Richards was leading the way with several defence busting runs.
Just on the half hour mark after a multi-phase attack Ben Holt fed Harry Forrest down the blindside of a ruck and he outpaced the cover to touchdown for an unconverted try, 7-19.
As half time approached Raiders looked capable of scoring again but the whistle to end the half came before any scores were possible.
Half time score: London Irish Wild Geese 7 Worthing Raiders 19
Irish restarted after the break with Raiders now playing into the wind. The home side used the wind to kick themselves into attacking positions. Raiders continually countered with good team work and individual breaks, but whenever there was a dropped pass, turnover or penalty Irish immediately kicked deep into Raiders’ territory and made the visitors start all over again.
This pressure resulted in two tries for the home side, one of which was converted so levelling the score at 19-19 with just under a quarter of the game to go.
Both sides came close to scoring in the final fifteen minutes. Irish constantly slowed the game down to prevent Raiders from playing with the tempo that makes them so dangerous in attack.
As a draw looked like the final result the referee awarded a penalty to Irish when the clock was already in the red. They gratefully accepted the easy kick in front of the posts and so snatched the victory 22-19.
Full time score: London Irish Wild Geese 22 Worthing Raiders 19
This was possibly the most frustrating game and result of the season. After the first half performance Raiders should have been able to move further ahead and win the match. Credit to Irish who battled to the end to take the points as they fight to avoid relegation.
Referee: Matthew Sharpe
Tries: McLean, Barlow, Forrest H
Cons: Matt McLean x 2
- Jack Forrest 14. Curtis Barnes 13. Harry Barlow 12. Tom Miller 11. Harry Forrest 10. Matt McLean- Captain 9. Ben Holt (Walsh 47 mins, Holt 60 mins) 1. Henry Birch 2. Jordan Gibson (Gatford 67 mins) 3. Rhys Litterick 4. George Hammond 5. Jack Lake 6. Jon Whittall (Harris 60 mins) 7. John Dawe (Lee 67 mins) 8. Kiba Richards
- George Harris 17. Grant Gatford 18. Jack Lee 19. Matt Walsh 20. Tom Gwyther