Old Albanian 34 Worthing Raiders 34

Match report and photos by Colin Coulson.

Match twenty three saw Raiders travel to Hertfordshire to play Old Albanian. After a run of poor results it was hoped this would be the game that kicked started the Raiders’ season and thus move further away from the relegation zone.

John Dawe, Kiba Richards and Jack Maslen returned to the match day squad for this game.

Saturday was a dull, damp day in St Albans but the ground was dry and the rain stayed away.

Old As kicked off playing with a gusty breeze behind them.

Raiders could not have asked for a better first twenty minutes scoring four unanswered tries. With the bonus point secured it looked like the first win since the Redruth game was on the cards.

The first try came after five minutes when John Dawe made the turnover at a ruck deep in Raiders’ territory. Matt McLean chipped the ball out to the left wing where Jack Forrest caught it and fed Harry Barlow who raced away to score in the corner. Matt McLean’s conversion attempt into the wind narrowly failed. (0-5)

Three minutes later with front foot possession from a scrum, the ball was moved at pace across the backline and once again it was Harry Barlow to finish the move scoring in the left hand corner.  Matt McLean faced the same kick into the wind and again just failed to convert. (0-10)

The third try came after the visitors had made steady and patient progress up the field through good interplay between backs and forwards. Kiba Richards made the touch down with three of the home side hanging on to him as he crossed the line. Matt’s conversion stretched the lead to 0-17.

Tom Miller was having a good game in the centre frequently bursting through OAs’ defence in midfield. It was from one of these breaks that a kick ahead resulted in harry Barlow collecting the ball and scoring his third try of the half. Matt again converted to stretch the lead to 0-24.

One more score by Raiders at this point may well have seen off any revival from the home side but instead one or two misplaced kicks and lucky bounces suddenly saw OAs scoring three tries of their own before the break. The game was certainly back in the balance by half time as Raiders lead was cut to five points.

Half time score: Old Albanian 19 Worthing Raiders 24

Raiders played with the wind at their backs in the second half as they restarted the game.

In the early stages of the half the momentum stayed with the home side and it wasn’t long before they scored another try to bring the scores level at 24-24.

Another turnover by John Dawe earned the visitors a penalty which Matt McLean slotted to retake the lead 24-27.

The game was moving from end to end, both teams looked like they would score each time they had possession. The control shown by Raiders early in the game was no longer evident as there was more broken play due to errors made by both sides.

The home side took the lead with a quarter of the game to go when they scored an unconverted try from a catch and drive from a lineout near the Raiders’ goal line. (29-27)

Raiders missed a chance to retake the lead when a long range penalty from Matt McLean just went wide.

As time slipped away it was starting to look like several other games this season when Raiders had snatched defeat from the jaws victory. Things looked worse when the home side scored another catch and drive try from a lineout. Fortunately for Raiders the conversion was missed and the lead was still only one score – 34-27.

At this point the visitors started to play a much more controlled game, the forwards controlling the ball and the backs looking more likely to pierce the defence as they had early in the game. This was becoming very stressful to watch for the Raiders’ supporters who had made the journey.

With three minutes left on the clock OAs had a scrum on their own twenty two metre line. They seemed a little unsure of what tactics to employ, probably they should have kicked out of defence, but instead they tried to run it out across their backline. This took them deeper into their twenty two and the aggressive Raiders’ defence forced a misplaced pass which Jack Forrest kicked ahead and won the race to the touchdown wide on the right. Matt McLean converted effortlessly to tie the score at 34-34.

All eyes were on the clock and with two minutes left to play Raiders controlled possession as the forwards drove the home side back towards their try line. It looked like the visitors might yet take the win but their final efforts were thwarted and the referee blew for full time.

Full time score: Old Albanian 34 Worthing Raiders 34

At the start of the day Raiders would probably have been over the moon to achieve three league points away from home after their poor form in recent weeks but they will be disappointed they weren’t ruthless enough to take home all the points.

On the day a draw was probably a fair result as both sides needed to take points from this game.

Referee: Iain Kiy

Scorers:

Tries: Barlow x 3, Richards, Forrest J

Cons: Matt McLean x 2

Team:

  1. Harry Forrest 14. Jack Maslen 13. Jack Forrest 12. Tom Miller 11. Harry Barlow 10. Matt McLean- Captain 9. Ben Holt 1. Henry Birch 2. Jordan Gibson 3. Rhys Litterick 4. George Hammond 5. Jack Lake 6. Rob Cuffe 7. John Dawe 8. Kiba Richards

Bench:

  1. Elliott Luke 17. Grant Gatford 18. Kieran Sassone 19. George Harris 20. Sam Boyland

Attendance: 256