Match report and photos by Colin Coulson
With only seven games left in the season Raiders travelled to St Albans this week to play Old Albanian. Every match for Raiders is now a major event in itself as they try to pick up points and move away from the lower end of the league table.
Games between the two sides are usually open and high scoring. Raiders won the home fixture earlier in the season and travelled with confidence, aiming to do the double.
After another very close match against Guernsey the previous week, Raiders made five changes to the squad. Returning after long injury spells were skipper Jack Forrest and Peter Drummond. Ethan Clarke, Caleb Ashworth and Charlie Clare returned after being unavailable the previous week. Ed Grinsted was not available this week and both Harry Forrest and Charlie Spencer picked up injuries the previous week.
On an overcast afternoon Old Albanian kicked off with a strong wind at their backs.
During the first fifteen minutes the visitors gave away several penalties and with the aid of the wind the hosts were able to pin Raiders in their own twenty-two metre area. Thus, Old Albanian were able to dominate possession and field position, resulting in two converted tries giving them a 14-0 lead after twelve minutes. The home side had made an aggressive start in scrum, ruck and maul which the visitors found difficult to contain.
It wasn’t until the seventeenth minute that Raiders got into the Old Albanian’s half of the field. Two penalties in as many minutes were given against the hosts and this allowed the visitors to kick for position. The second of these kicks gave Raiders a lineout fifteen metres from the try line and Old Albanian’s received a yellow card for the infringement. From the line out a driving maul was set up, Caleb Ashworth then broke off the maul and powered towards the try line, when he was stopped it was Fraser Bruce who picked up the ball and burst through the last defenders to touch down. The conversion was made by Tom Derrick and the score after eighteen minutes was 14-7.
Raiders had been penalised on two or three occasions for offences in the front row and so the coaches, made changes after twenty-five minutes. Fraser Bruce and Caleb Ashworth took a rest, both to return later in the game, and Ben Featherstone and Ethan Clarke replaced them. Although the scrum became more stable this didn’t stop the home side from scoring two more converted tries by the time thirty minutes had been played, 28-7.
The wind certainly made it very difficult to exit from defence using the boot, and often after making good progress up the field with ball in hand any errors were pounced on and the ball quickly ended up back inside the visitors’ twenty-two-metre area.
Eventually Raiders were able to go through the phases and force the home side back into their own territory. Skipper Jack Forrest then made a telling break leaving several would-be tacklers behind him. When he was brought to a halt a few metres from the try line the ball was moved to Will Rigelsford on the left wing and he rounded off the move touching down in the corner. The difficult conversion into the wind fell short leaving the home side with a 28-12 lead.
Raiders almost scored from their own try line moments before half time. Running the ball out of defence Tom Bowen avoided a couple of tacklers and then looked as if he would be able to outpace the Old Albanian’s players to get to the corner and score, however, the cover defence did its job and so Tom made an overhead pass back in field to the supporting players but the officials ruled it had gone forward and the chance was gone and the half came to an end.
Half time score: Old Albanian 28 Worthing Raiders 12
Raiders restarted the game after the break, now playing with the wind behind them.
During the half the visitors rotated players from the bench at regular intervals to maintain the tempo of play.
With five minutes played Raiders had defended Old Albanian’s attack well and held them up in the tackle. From the resulting scrum they set off with ball in hand up the blind side. It looked like a good chance to go down the wing unfortunately, a pass was intercepted and the hosts scored an unconverted try to stretch the lead to 33-12.
The game looked to be slipping away but Raiders were now playing with more confidence and having prolonged spells of possession in attack.
Both Frank Taggart and Caleb Ashworth made telling bursts with ball in hand leading to Will Rigelsford being held up a metre short of the line. The home side were penalised at this tackle situation and Raiders took a tap on the five metre line and after a couple of rucks another penalty was awarded. The forwards again took a tap and Fraser Bruce crossed the line for his second try of the afternoon. Tom Derrick converted and the score was 33-19.
Raiders maintained their momentum and a powerful break by Ollie Crow almost led to a try under the posts.
With sixty-one minutes played the hosts kicked a penalty to extend their lead to 36-19.
When a penalty was awarded to Raiders after sixty-seven minutes they kicked to the corner and from the lineout they set up a catch and drive resulting in Caleb Ashworth touching down to earn the bonus point. Tom Derrick converted to close the gap to 36-26 with about ten minutes to play.
The visitors continued to defend well and looked capable of creating another score until Frank Taggart was yellow carded and the hosts kicked another penalty to stretch the lead to 39-26.
Raiders gave it everything in the final minutes but were unable to conjure any more points.
Full time score: Old Albanian 39 Worthing Raiders 26
Another game that could easily have been a win for Raiders but for a slow start and some basic errors. Having conceded early tries it was then an uphill battle for the rest of the game. Good spirit and plenty of skilful moments earned another important bonus point but with Wimbledon winning the pressure on Raiders in the basement of the league just ramped up.
Referee: Peter Caunt
Tries: Bruce (2), Rigelsford, Ashworth
Con: Derrick (3)
1. Fraser Bruce 2. Will Gearing-Grief 3. Caleb Ashworth 4. Jack Lake 5. Dan Macadams 6. Ollie Crow 7. Joe Knight 8. Frank Taggart 9. Charlie Clare
10. Jack Forrest – captain 11. Will Rigelsford 12. Harrison Sims 13. Tom Derrick 14. Will Rawlinson 15. Tom Bowen
16. Ethan Clarke 17. Balazs Magda 18. Ben Featherstone 19. Cam Dobinson 20. Pete Drummond