Match report by Colin Coulson, photos Andy Wales
Saturday 9th October
Game six of the season and Raiders were travelling to Bristol to play Dings Crusaders. A tough game was expected as Dings had, like Raiders made a good start to the season. The playing surface at Dings is artificial and players have to adjust to the challenges of the ball bouncing higher and rolling further as well as the pace of the game generally being faster.
The squad selected for Raiders saw Fraser Bruce make his first start in the second row with Dan Sargent and Charlie Spencer joining the bench. The remaining seventeen players were all involved in the Rochford game the previous week.
After last week’s monsoon like conditions, it was nice to have a dry, sunny day for this match.
Raiders kicked off attacking the car park end of the ground. The first few minutes were scrappy with both teams having some possession, but errors and penalties prevented any continuity in play.
Dings were first to score with a converted try after five minutes, giving them the early lead at 7-0.
As usual Raiders were trying to play an open brand of rugby and over the next few minutes began to make in roads into the home sides’ defence.
Fraser Bruce made an excellent charge with ball in hand and set up a good attacking situation. After moving the ball through several phases, the visitors earned a penalty which Matt McLean comfortably converted into three points. 7-3 after nine minutes.
Dings’ pack was looking strong and constantly tested the visitors’ defence at close quarters. They were attacking deep in Raiders’ territory but when they tried to move the ball wide the pressure from the defence caused the ball to be fumbled. Will Beer scooped the ball up ten metres from his own goal line and set off with Dings’ players turning and attempting to chase him down. Will just had enough pace to score an excellent opportunists’ try under the posts. Matt McLean converted, and Raiders now led 7-10.
At this stage neither side could keep possession long enough to build meaningful attacks.
Raiders extended their lead after twenty minutes. The ball was moved to the right from a scrum just outside the Dings’ 22-metre line. It was then kicked towards the corner, it bounced extravagantly, and Matt McLean was able to gather the ball as he leapt in the air. On landing he was tackled but not before he slipped the ball infield to Connor Slevin to run in and touch down almost under the posts. Matt converted to stretch the lead to 7-17.
Matt McLean extended the lead further after thirty minutes with another penalty. 7-20.
Henry Birch replaced Nathan Jibulu with five minutes left in the half.
After an attack was stopped close to the visitors’ try line Matt McLean received a yellow card for a technical offence.
The score-line looked useful but Dings always looked as if they could score when they had possession and so it proved with only a minute of the half left, they scored a converted try to close the gap at the half time interval.
Half time score: Dings Crusaders 14 Worthing Raiders 20
The visitors made two changes at half time Fraser Bruce and Rhys Litterick were replaced by Nathan Jibulu and Will Hobson.
The home side kicked off to restart the game after the interval and were quickly on the attack. Over the next ten minutes they looked like a different team as they completely dominated this period scoring three tries two of which were converted, the deficit had been wiped out and they now had a lead. Although Matt McLean replied with another penalty the game looked to be slipping away from the visitors as they found themselves trailing 33-23, with thirty minutes to play.
Ken Dowding and Will Beer were replaced by Dan Sargent and Jerome Rudder.
Although the visitors found themselves under pressure from the Dings’ pack at scrum and lineout, they were producing enough quality ball to exert pressure on the Dings’ defence. When Raiders used the high kick as a means of attack the chase was invariably good and the tackling in offence enabled them to maintain good field position. The visitors created several scoring chances but were thwarted at the last moment.
With twenty minutes left in the game Raiders had a lineout ten metres from the Dings’ try line. Jack Lee rose high to take a clean catch and then a well-formed maul drove towards the try line enabling skipper, Henry Birch to ground the ball and Matt McLean to convert. The gap now closed to 33-30.
The game that not too long ago looked like it would be a win for the home team was now right back in the balance. Raiders had clawed their way back into this match and now looked capable of sneaking a win.
With less than ten minutes to go Raiders attacked down the left wing, the ball moving through several pairs of hands before being passed to Matt McLean who touched down. Not only was it the bonus point try it also gave Raiders a two-point lead, 33-35.
Charlie Spencer replaced Kieran Leeming for the final few minutes.
Although Dings tried everything they could in this final section of the game the visitors were able to hold on, dare I say, comfortably until the final whistle.
Full time score: Dings Crusaders 33 Worthing Raiders 35
It would be fair to say Raiders hadn’t performed as well as they would have liked but in a tough match against good opposition, they had shown great spirit in gaining the victory and collecting another five points in the league. Well done to Matt McLean who scored twenty points in today’s game.
After Saturday’s results Raiders remain at the top of the league with twenty-six points out of a possible thirty.
Thanks as always to the travelling supporters who this week had to contend with the terrible conditions on the roads to get to Bristol and then cope with a cliff-hanger of a game before being able to celebrate.
Referee: Dan Parrott
Tries: Beer, Slevin, Birch, McLean
Con: McLean x 3
Pen: McLean x 3
- Ken Dowding, 2. Nathan Jibulu, 3. Rhys Litterick, 4. Jack Lee, 5. Fraser Bruce, Jack Lake, 7. Makeen Alikhan, 8. Kemp Price, 9. Rhys Morgan, 10. Kieran Leeming, 11. Will Beer, 12. Harrison Sims, 13. Jack Forrest, 14. Matt McLean, 15. Connor Slevin
- Henry Birch – Capt, 17. Will Hobson, 18. Dan Sargent, 19. Jerome Rudder 20. Charlie Spencer