Match report by Colin Coulson. Photos by Warwick Baker and Andy Wales.
After a long hard season blighted by many injuries Raiders required at least a win, and preferably a bonus point as well in order to maintain their National 2 South status, in the final game against Exmouth.
Scott Barlow and Ryan Storer both returned to the side after injury and were both playing their 100th National League game for Raiders, the latter coincidentally appearing in his 200th 1st XV game for the Club.
On a hot, sunny afternoon the crowd of over eight hundred were in good voice as kick off time approached.
Raiders kicked off attacking the southern end of the ground into quite a strong breeze. From the kick Kariym Irving was able to out jump the waiting Exmouth players and immediately give the home side possession of the ball. With ball in hand Raiders were able to keep the Exmouth defence under pressure during the early part of the game and although the first score didn’t come quickly their patience was rewarded in the thirteenth minute. The visitors had possession when a characteristic, crunching Kariym Irving tackle felled their centre who spilled the ball, Joe Watson-Brooks was on hand to scoop it up and romp in for Raiders’ first try. Matt McLean converted to make it 7-0.
With nerves settled and confidence rising the home side were becoming dominant in all facets of the game.
In the twenty second minute Scott Barlow burst out of a ruck with ball in hand and passed to Ben Loosmore who gained twenty metres before releasing to Kariym Irving on the left wing, who out stripped the defence from the halfway line. With the conversion unsuccessful the lead was now 12-0.
The lead stretched further when Kieran Leeming took a quick tap penalty and from the resulting ruck the ball found its way to Dino Lamb in centre field who burst through the defence to score under the posts, with Matt adding the extras the lead was stretched to seventeen points.
With little sustained possession Exmouth had not been able to exert much pressure on the Raiders’ defence until now. After moving the ball through several phases they were rewarded with a try by centre Mark Wathes. At 17-5 the home side knew the result was not yet safe….A comeback by the visiting side was something the home crowd had witnessed several times this season and certainly didn’t want to see today.
On thirty eight minutes the tension in the crowd was relieved when the visitors missed touch with a penalty clearance kick and from deep in Raiders’ territory Kieran Leeming collected the ball which was passed through the hands of Harry Forrest, Kariym Irving and Ben Loosmore before Sam Hewick touched down for that vital bonus point try. The lead was now 24-5 as the whistle went for half time.
It is always important to get the first score after the break and it was only two minutes into the half when the home side got their fifth try. From a Raiders’ lineout on the half way Skipper, Liam Perkins, leading from the front as always, caught the ball and burst through the opposition line and sprinted to the try line to the delight of his team mates and the crowd. 29-5.
Three minutes later a great off load from Finlay Coxon-Smith to Dino Lamb on the right wing produced another great try for the crowd to savour. Matt converted to make the lead 35-5.
Raiders were playing excellent running rugby and constantly testing the resolve of the Exmouth defence. It was only a couple of minutes before a rampaging Dino Lamb completed his hat trick for the day and shortly after that Matt McLean completed scoring with a try and conversion to bring the final score to 50 points to 5.
The crowd had witnessed Raiders at their best in this important final game of the season.
With results from matches involving the other teams in the relegation battle now filtering through to Roundstone Lane it was soon confirmed that National 2 South status had been retained and that Raiders had finished in 12th place.
Well done to all those players who have worn the Raiders’ shirt this season. Many of our young players have been blooded and given a great account of themselves, whilst the experienced members of the squad have regularly performed with great skill and commitment.
Thanks must go to Tim Eden and his team for all their hard work ‘mending’ players throughout the season.
In what has been a very difficult season we must congratulate Jody Levett and Ben Coulson for their achievements in their first year in charge. Thanks also to the help and support they receive from Paul Loader and JC.
Many, many thanks to all our supporters you are greatly appreciated by the players.
B&W Man of the Match: Liam Perkins – well deserved after another excellent performance on the day as well as his great leadership on and off the field throughout the season.
- Ryan Storer (Finney 65 mins) 2. Joe Watson-Brooks (Grief 74 mins) 3. Grant Gatford 4. Scott Barlow 5. Jack Lake 6. Dino Lamb 7. Sam Hewick (Harris 61 mins) 8. Liam Perkins – Captain 9. Kieran Leeming (Peach 71 mins) 10. Matt McLean 11. Kariym Irving 12. Ben Loosmore (Paddenburg 74 mins) 13. Kiba Richards 14. Finlay Coxon-Smith 15. Harry Forrest
- Will Grief 17. Matt Finney 18. George Harris 19. Dan Peach 20. Nick Paddenburg