After an excellent win the previous week against Esher at the Rugby Park, Raiders were on the road again this week, with the relatively short trip to Barnes in south London.
Selection is a weekly problem with injuries and unavailabilities affecting continuity in performance. This week Raiders were again forced to make several changes from the squad that played the week before.
Skipper Liam Perkins pulled out with an injury on the morning of the match, Calum Waters and Jordan Gibson were also missing. To compensate for these omissions there were several positional changes and Sam Boyland, Grant Gatford, Will Fowler and Tom Young (making his debut in National 2) were included in the squad.
After another wet week match day was, for the first time in a month dry.
On a slightly heavy pitch and under dark clouds Raiders kicked off. As the home side failed to secure the ball Curtis Barnes was on hand to kick the ball towards the try line and was only prevented from getting the touchdown by some excellent work in defence by Barnes.
It wasn’t long before the visitors opened their account for the afternoon. When the home side overthrew a line out, Elliott Luke was first to the ball and he was able to feed John Dawe who romped in to score next to the posts. With Matt McLean’s conversion Raiders had an early lead, 0-7.
Only four minutes later Raiders scored their second try. From a penalty in midfield, Henry Anscombe kicked to the corner and from the resulting line out a well-executed catch and drive saw Scott Barlow get the touchdown, with the conversion unsuccessful Raiders extended the lead to 0-12.
Barnes soon replied with a catch and drive try of their own to narrow the gap to 7-12.
Raiders’ lead was extended with a penalty by Matt McLean after the home side were penalised at a scrum, 5-15.
The game flowed end to end and both sides looked capable of making the next score. As it happens it was Barnes who scored next with an unconverted try from a 5-metre scrum and thus they closed the gap to 12-15.
Just after half an hour into the contest, from a scrum in centre field, Raiders moved the ball towards the left wing. Jack Forrest cleverly drew two players onto him before releasing Curtis Barnes, who using his pace and directional changes dived in to score near the posts. Matt McLean added the extras, 12-22.
Again, Barnes came storming back towards the end of the half and after applying considerable pressure on the Raiders’ defence they finally scored a converted try from a catch and drive. The half ended at this point with Raiders in a slender lead.
Half time score: Barnes 19 Worthing Raiders 22
By the time the home side restarted the game after the half time break the light was fading fast and viewing from distance was becoming difficult.
It was Barnes who struck first with a converted try to take the lead for the first time, 26-22.
The Raiders’ scrum was becoming dominant and after ten minutes earned them a penalty. Henry Anscombe kicked towards the Barnes’ twenty-two metre line and the lineout was set. Raiders won the ball and Kiba Richards made ground before a series of offloads under pressure led to Harry Forrest diving in to score the fourth and bonus point try for the visitors. With Matt McLean successful kick the lead reverted to Raiders, 26-29.
Raiders had chances to extend the lead, but two penalty attempts and a couple of try scoring chances failed to do the job.
Barnes continued to threaten the Raiders’ defence, especially when they had the chance to catch and drive from a lineout.
With about fifteen minutes left to play Matt McLean extended the lead to six points, 26-32, with a well-struck penalty.
As the game was drawing to a close and in the gloom, Raiders had Scott Barlow and Tom Gwyther go off injured. Will Fowler and Grant Gatford replaced them.
After exerting great pressure on the visitors Barnes scored a try with the last play of the game, 31-32. Unfortunately for the home side the conversion was from the touchline, players and spectators held their breath as they watched the kick fly narrowly wide of the posts, at which point the referee blew for full time.
Full time score: Barnes 31 Worthing Raiders 32
A tight, entertaining game for the neutral but a nerve-jangler for both teams’ supporters. Winning at Barnes has been difficult for Raiders in the last few visits, so this win was much appreciated by the coaches, players and supporters.
Three wins in a row and two of them away from home is very commendable, fourteen points from the three games.
Thanks again to the many Raiders supporters who made the journey and gave plenty of audible encouragement to the team.
Referee: Sam Phillips
Scorers: Tries: Dawe, Barlow, Barnes, H Forrest
Con: McLean x 3 Pen: McLeanx2
Team: 1. Henry Birch – Captain 2. Elliott Luke 3. Rhys Litterick 4. Scott Barlow (Gatford 77 min) 5. Jack Lake 6. Freddie Holmes (Whittall 50 min) 7. John Dawe 8. Kiba Richards 9. Sam Boyland 10. Henry Anscombe 11. Curtis Barnes 12. Tom Gwyther (Fowler 77 min)13. Jack Forrest 14. Harry Forrest 15. Matt McLean
Bench 16. Tom Young 17. Sam Cook 18. Grant Gatford 19. Will Fowler 20. Jon Whittall