Match report and photos Colin Coulson
After a trip to Suffolk the previous week Raiders were back at Roundstone Lane for this week’s game against old rivals Henley.
Defeat at Bury St Edmunds last week left Raiders in thirteenth place in the league, hence another very difficult game was in prospect against Henley who at time of kick off held fourth position.
Selection continues to provide plenty of problems for the coaches due to injuries to several key players. Skipper Jack Forrest, Fraser Bruce, Curtis Barnes, Iago Davies are just a few of those still unavailable.
The squad selected this week had four changes of personnel from that which travelled to Bury St Edmunds. Balazs Magda was making his debut after getting injured in the first pre-season game, Tom Sunray, Peter Drummond and Paddy Wood all returned after missing the last couple of matches.
Despite a week of very wet weather, the pitch was in perfect condition, and the weather ideal for an open game of rugby.
A crowd of over four hundred were in attendance when Raiders kicked off attacking the southern end of the ground.
The early part of the game belonged to Henley as they took advantage of ill-directed kicks and missed tackles by Raiders allowing the visitors to score a converted try and a penalty to open up a 10-point lead by the fourteenth minute.
The home side then began to gain a foothold on territory and made good use of possession, putting pressure on the visitors’ defence.
Just before the twenty-minute mark Raiders mounted an attack involving backs and forwards going through several phases until they were awarded a penalty at a ruck. Josh Bellamy kicked for touch and Raiders had a line out close to the Henley try line. A well-constructed catch and drive resulted in Will Gearing-Grief touching down. The try wasn’t converted but the visitors’ lead was cut to 5-10.
From the restart Joe Knight made an aggressive break and a multi-phase attack was built in mid-field. Although it didn’t result in any points it was encouraging for the team and supporters.
Henley, however, were soon back on the attack deep in Raiders’ territory but despite patient use of the ball through several phases the home side’s defence was sound and eventually earned a penalty to relieve the pressure.
The visitors were awarded a penalty on halfway when Harry Forrest stripped the ball in a one-on-one tackle. From the touch line this looked a rather harsh decision. Henley kicked to touch deep in Raiders’ half but the home side’s defence comfortably kept them out and quickly got back on the offensive.
With about five minutes to go to half time the home side had possession just inside the Henley half. Good handling and strong running led to Tom Derrick making a half break, from the resulting ruck Cam Dobinson decided to use the blind side, setting Harrison Sims off on a powerful run before releasing the ball to Harry Forrest who was able to outrun the defence and dive in at the corner to score the second try for the home side. Josh Bellamy converted from the touchline to give Raiders the lead at 12-10.
The final action of the half saw Raiders build another expansive attack down the left flank but the Henley defence was able to prevent a further score with some good, last-ditch tackling.
Half time score: Worthing Raiders 12 Henley Hawks 10
Henley kicked off to restart the game after the break, now defending the northern end of the ground.
Within a minute they were awarded a penalty in front of the posts and they chose to kick the three points, thus retaking the lead at 12-13.
Moments later Josh Bellamy slotted a penalty for Raiders and the lead changed hands again with the score now 15-13.
The home side scored their third try after five minutes in the half. Cam Dobinson put up a high box-kick which the Henley players failed to catch. Raiders snaffled up the bouncing ball which found its way into the hands of Harrison Sims who sprinted off down the pitch brushing off attempted tackles before touching down in the corner. Josh Bellamy hit the cross bar with the conversion and as luck would have it the ball bounced back on to the pitch instead of over the bar. However, this gave the home side a 20-13 lead.
Raiders’ scrum and lineout were working well and providing a flow of good possession for the backs to work with.
Henley scored next with another penalty to close the gap to 20-16. Raiders replied immediately with a Josh Bellamy penalty to extend the lead to seven points, 23-16.
Midway through the half Henley drew level with a converted try, 23-23.
Raiders introduced Tom Sunray, Balazs Magda and Charlie Spencer during this period of the game.
For the next five minutes the home side was in the ascendancy and under pressure in defence, Henley were issued with a yellow card.
From a lineout Raiders spun the ball across the backs with pace and accuracy. Having stretched the defence Josh Bellamy realised Peter Drummond was in oceans of space out on the right wing, he put a perfectly placed Crossfield kick to him and a try looked on the cards until the lone Henley defender just did enough to prevent him from making a clean catch and the chance was gone.
Henley then had five minutes of territorial dominance and in that time kicked two penalties to take a six-point lead at a crucial time in the game, 23-29.
The final ten minutes saw the home side pressing for a try. They maintained the pressure on the Henley defence and they were penalised two or three times inside their twenty-two. With ball in hand and only a few metres from the goal line Raiders went through many phases at close quarters but couldn’t break the Henley defence to get that vital fourth try.
As the clock got to forty minutes Henley were able to get the ball off the field to end the game.
Full time score: Worthing Raiders 23 Henley Hawks 29
A great disappointment for the team and supporters as Raiders had undoubtedly done enough to win this game, having outscored Henley on tries, 3 to 2, the game was lost to penalty kicks.
However, there was plenty to be pleased about in this performance. The scrum and line out more than held their own and the backs were very dangerous when in possession and created two very good tries.
With so many players still out injured the depth of the squad is being tested and this week they performed with plenty of spirit and skill. If they can cut out the simple errors and get a bit of luck at key moments the wins will surely come.
Referee: Jack Sutton
Enzo’s Restaurant Man of the Match: Harrison Sims
Tries: Gearing-Grief, H Forrest, Sims
Pen: Bellamy (2)
Grant Gatford 2. Will Gearing-Grief 3. Ben Featherstone 4. Jack Lake – Captain 5. Dan Macadams 6. Ed Grinsted 7. Joe Knight 8. Frank Taggart 9. Cam Dobinson 10. Josh Bellamy 11. Harry Forrest 12. Harrison Sims 13. Tom Derrick 14. Peter Drummond 15. Tom Bowen
Paddy Wood 17. Balazs Magda 18. Tom Sunray 19. Charlie Spencer 20. Louis Ellis