Worthing Raiders lose to Taunton, but there is plenty of optimism for the rest of the season

Raiders celebrate the their third try, scored by Jack Forrest. Picture by Stephen Goodger
Raiders celebrate the their third try, scored by Jack Forrest. Picture by Stephen Goodger

Game three and Raiders had a home fixture against Taunton Titans, one of the favourites to be involved in the promotion race this season.

The Raiders team was without John Dawe, (on international 7s duty) but saw the return of Calum Waters and Ryan Maguire to an otherwise unchanged squad.

On a very hot day and on a very firm pitch an entertaining game was expected by the crowd of over six hundred. This thirteen try extravaganza had much for both sets of supporters to cheer about.

Titans kicked off defending the northern end of the ground. Within six minutes the visitors had shown why they are one of the favourites for promotion having scored two tries to take an early 0-12 lead.

Many in the crowd might have feared the worst at this point but within a few minutes the home side were on the scoreboard when Calum Waters caught a chip over the defence from Matt McLean to touch down. Matt converted to close the gap to 7-12.

Titans were looking very dangerous whenever they had the ball and it wasn’t long before they extended their lead with a penalty and converted try to open the gap to 7-22.

After twenty-six minutes Titans received a yellow card and from that penalty Raiders had a lineout ten metres from the visitors’ goal line. From the catch and drive the home side were held up over the line and a five-metre scrum was awarded. The Raiders’ pack pushed the Titans back to their own line and Kiba Richards touched down. The conversion made the score 14-22.

With seven minutes of the half left Kiba Richards received a yellow card but Titans were not able to capitalise on the man advantage, in fact the opposite occurred. As the visitors continued to run the ball from all areas of the pitch Jack Forrest intercepted a pass and outpaced the defence to score under the posts, again Matt McLean was successful with the kick and Raiders closed the half one point in arrears.

Half time score: Worthing Raiders 21 Taunton Titans 22

Raiders restarted the game after the break. The quality of running rugby from both sides was outstanding and during the second half the teams scored alternately every few minutes.

Ten minutes into the half as Titans tried to clear the ball whilst under pressure in defence, Dave McIlwaine charged down the clearing kick and Calum Waters collected the rebound to run in unopposed. Matt added the extras and the home side took the lead at 28-22. This was the fourth try and thus a bonus point had been earned.

Titans scored on thirteen minutes to close the gap to 28-27 but five minutes later after a multi-phase attack from Raiders, a neat off load by Calum Waters put Harry Forrest in a position to demonstrate a great step off his right foot to beat the last defender and score under the posts. Matt McLean again converted, and the lead was extended to 35-27.

It didn’t take long for the visitors to notch another converted try and the lead was reduced to one point at 35-34.

Raiders continued to play high tempo, open rugby and were rewarded with their sixth try when Jack Forrest cut back close to the side of a ruck and burst through tackles to score under the posts. Another conversion from Matt McLean put the home side in a 42-34 lead with twelve minutes to play.

The home side emptied the bench during the half in order to put fresh legs on the field and maintain the pace of play in attack and defence.

When Titans scored with ten minutes to go, they closed the gap to 42-41. A nail-biting end to the game was inevitable. Even when the visitors scored again to take the lead late in the game, (42-46), Raiders still had five minutes to retake the lead but try as they did the visitors controlled the possession in a professional manner and thus prevented any further score. So near yet so far, not many would have predicted such a high scoring, close game. An outstanding game of rugby, a credit to both teams’ effort and skill.

Full time score: Worthing Raiders 42 Taunton Titans 46

Much to admire from the Raiders’ performance and plenty of optimism for the rest of the season.

Referee: Hamish Grant

Scorers: Tries: Waters x 2, Richards, Forrest J x 2, Forrest H. Cons: McLean x 6

Team: 1.Henry Birch (Litterick 53 min) – Captain 2. Elliott Luke (Gibson 63 min) 3. Rhys Litterick (Adams 33 min) 4. Scott Barlow (Maguire 53 min) 5. Jack Lee 6. Jon Whittall 7. Will Grief (Fowler 65 min) 8. Kiba Richards 9. Sam Boyland (McIlwaine 40 min) 10. Matt McLean 11. Calum Waters 12. Tom Gwyther 13. Jack Forrest 14. Harry Forrest 15. Henry Anscombe

Bench: 16.Jordan Gibson 17. Tom Adams 18. Will Fowler 24. Ryan Maguire 20. Dave McIlwaine

Attendance: 609