Tonbridge Juddians 61

Worthing Raiders 31

Saturday 23rd March 2024

Match report and photos by Colin Coulson

With only four games left in the season Raiders travelled to Kent to play fourth placed Tonbridge Juddians. Another difficult fixture at a time when picking up points is all important.

The reverse fixture earlier in the season was high scoring and close but it was Tonbridge Juddians that got the victory.

This week there were four changes to the squad that defeated Sevenoaks in the previous game. Injuries ruled out Joe Knight, Jack Doorey-Palmer and Caleb Ashworth. Ed Grinsted was also unavailable. On the positive side Fraser Bruce returned after missing a couple of games, Dan Macadams and Will Rigelsford returned after representing the Navy and Charlie Spencer was selected on the bench.

In the hour before the game started a hailstorm of monumental proportions hit the ground while both teams were trying to go through their warmup routines. Thankfully it abated prior to kick off and the game was played in glorious sunshine, although underfoot conditions were left rather heavy. Despite this a fast, open game entertained the crowd.

Raiders played down the slope and with the wind in the first half. The hosts kicked off and with only six minutes played, scored an unconverted try to lead 5-0.

The visitors got into their stride and produced good build up play but were guilty of making simple errors at key moments. Tonbridge Juddians punished them for this with two converted tries in the sixteenth and nineteenth minutes. With a lead of 19-0 the visitors once more faced an uphill task after a slow start.

The home side looked dangerous when in possession and were ruthless at capitalising on any mistakes made by the visitors.

As the game moved into the second quarter Raiders began to have more of the ball and in more attacking areas of the pitch.

After Tonbridge Juddians had given away a penalty, Raiders kicked to touch and produced clean ball at the ensuing lineout. They built a forward based attack that forced the home side to concede another penalty close to their try line. Raiders elected to take a scrum from which they moved the ball to the backs and Harrison Sims took a pass on the gain line which he juggled under pressure but collected cleanly before diving over to score. With the conversion missed Tonbridge Juddians had a 19-5 lead.

From the restart the visitors set up a ruck in the middle of the pitch and Cam Dobinson put up a high box kick, no-one from either side was able to take it on the full and a favourable bounce saw the ball land in Curtis Barnes’ hands, with nothing in front of him but the try line he raced some thirty metres to touch down. Louis Ellis converted and the lead was reduced to 19-12.

The home side responded quickly with two further converted tries to open up a 33-12 lead after thirty-five minutes. These came from a combination of good play and a few missed, first up tackles.

The visitors knew they were up against a good side but in terms of their battle at the lower end of the league table, they knew they had to get at least a try bonus point out of this game.

In the final couple of minutes of the half they again raised their efforts and got back on the attack.

They produced some excellent multi-phased rugby which resulted in Tonbridge Juddians conceding a penalty on their five-metre line. Raiders opted to take a scrum. From the scrum the forwards took the battle to the defenders and after progress was held up the ball arrived in the hands of skipper Jack Forrest who shook off the attempted tacklers to go under the posts. Louis Ellis again converted and as the game reached the break the score was 33-19.

Half time score: Tonbridge Juddians 33 Worthing Raiders 19

Raiders restarted the game after the break knowing that a win was still possible but also that only one more try would secure a vital bonus point.

Unfortunately, within a minute the visitors conceded another converted try and suddenly victory looked a long, long way away at 40-19.

Raiders introduced Grant Gatford, Harry Forrest, Charlie Spencer, Will Rigelsford and Balazs Magda during the early part of the half to bring fresh legs on for the challenge.

Some positive play from steady lineout and scrum possession indicated that the visitors had more tries in them, however things got worse when the hosts rattled up two more converted tries, stretching their lead to 54-19 with a quarter of the match left to play.

As has happened on many occasions this season, Raiders raised their efforts showing great spirit and plenty of skill.

They were rewarded after thirty minutes when a long pass out to Will Rawlinson on the right wing, gave him the chance to out pace the cover and dive in at the corner to score the fourth try and earn a bonus point. With the conversion missed the score was now 54-24.

The visitors maintained the pressure on the Tonbridge Juddians’ defence playing expansive fifteen-man rugby.

Charlie Spencer had a run down the left wing, he chipped ahead but the roll of the ball just evaded the chasing players as it went into touch almost on the try line.

A good spell in attack by Raiders was relieved when they gave away a penalty. Within moments Tonbridge Juddians were moving towards another try scoring situation wide on the right wing. Will Rawlinson made an excellent effort to cover from the opposite wing but his last-ditch tackle was deemed illegal and a penalty try was awarded. With only a couple of minutes left in the game the hosts now led 61-24.

From the restart the home side knocked on and Raiders had an attacking scrum. The visitors were able to maintain the pressure on the Tonbridge Juddians’ defence and the final score of the game came when veteran front rower Grant Gatford reached out to score with one hand as several tacklers brought him to ground. Jack Forrest added the extras and the game finished.

Full time score: Tonbridge Juddians 61 Worthing Raiders 31

Tonbridge Juddians played well, looked like a top four side and thoroughly deserved the win scoring nine tries to the visitors five, however Raiders did what they had to do and that was to continue to pick up points. With three games to go they now have an eleven-point lead over thirteenth placed Wimbledon. Not out of the woods yet but a little bit of breathing space.

Referee: Simon Waite


Tries: Sims, Barnes, Forrest, Rawlinson, Gatford

Cons: Ellis (2), J Forrest


  1. Fraser Bruce 2. Will Gearing-Grief 3. Ben Featherstone 4. Jack Lake 5. Dan Macadams 6. Alfie Ambrose 7. Ollie Crow 8. Frank Taggart 9. Cam Dobinson 10. Louis Ellis 11. Curtis Barnes 12. Harrison Sims 13. J Forrest – Captain
  2. Will Rawlinson 15. Tom Derrick


  1. Balazs Magda 17. Grant Gatford 18. Will Rigelsford 19. Charlie Spencer 20. Harry Forrest