Worthing Raiders so close to late fightback - but Clifton take victory

Worthing Raiders lost 24-23 to Clifton in their latest National two south outing - a very disappointing result as Raiders had had enough possession and territory throughout the game to win comfortably.

Monday, 6th December 2021, 9:09 am
Updated Monday, 6th December 2021, 9:10 am
Harrison Sims goes through for Raiders' first try / Picture: Stephen Goodger

But players are human and simple errors of judgement made the difference on the day. It was a close and exciting game for the crowd of over 400 but only one point was earned by Raiders. Frank Taggart was named the Worthing MoM after an excellent home debut.

After the long but successful trip to Cornwall the previous week, Raiders returned to Roundstone Lane for this week’s encounter. Over the past ten seasons matches between Raiders and Clifton have always produced open, entertaining rugby and both teams have won as many as they have lost. With Raiders third and Clifton fourth in the league another tough match was on the cards.

There were only two changes to the squad that beat Redruth. Rob Cuffe and Will Hobson returned to take their place on the bench and Taggart moved from the bench to the starting line-up at No8 to make his home debut. On a cold, bright afternoon Raiders kicked off attacking the southern end of the ground. The home side were able to put pressure on the visitors from the start and were rewarded with a penalty in front of the posts which Matt McLean kicked to take a 3-0 lead after two minutes.

Raiders v Clifton action / Picture: Stephen Goodger

Raiders played some expansive and penetrative rugby but couldn’t quite turn it into points. Either good defence thwarted them or errors in decision-making. The home side had territorial dominance but the score remained the same until the twenty-sixth minute when McLean extended the lead to 6-0 with another well struck penalty.

During the final 15 minutes of the half Raiders should have extended their lead further but just couldn’t quite breach the defence of Clifton at the vital moments. A frustrating half for the home side ended with a long, range penalty attempt from Henry Anscombe which unfortunately hit the post and bounced out. Half time score: Worthing Raiders 6 Clifton 0

At the interval Elliott Luke replaced Henry Birch. Clifton restarted the game with Raiders now attacking the northern end of the ground. With three minutes of the half played the home side found themselves on the attack after turning the ball over in midfield.

The backs again ran the ball out towards the right wing, Jack Forrest kicked ahead and eventually the visitors kicked the ball into touch for a Raiders’ throw in. From the lineout the forwards made metres with individual carries from Luke and Rhys Litterick. A penalty was awarded at the tackle area and Rhys Morgan took a quick tap to keep the momentum up.

At the next ruck Levi Davis found himself in the scrum half position. He picked up and set off round the side of the ruck, shrugging off several attempted tacklers before letting the ball go to his left where Harrison Sims was available to finish the move with a try. McLean’s conversion narrowly missed from wide out and the lead was now 11-0.

Clifton responded with some good attacking rugby and when they were awarded a penalty ten metres from Raiders’ goal line, they took a quick tap, Jack Lee made a tackle but was penalised for not retiring ten metres, for this misdemeanour he received ten minutes in the sin bin. From the resulting scrum Clifton scored a converted try to close the gap to 11-7 after ten minutes of the half.

Cam Dobinson and Kieran Leeming replaced Rhys Morgan and Henry Anscombe after 12 minutes. Raiders mounted another positive attack when Cam Dobinson took a quick penalty and Forrest and Taggart made good ground before being penalised at the ruck for holding on.

Another chance for points lost. The home side continued to press and after a series of phases the ball was moved to the left side of the field where Matt McLean eventually got the touchdown but was unable to convert it. The lead opening up to 16-7 with twenty minutes to play. At this point Will Hobson replaced Ken Dowding in the front row and Jack Lee returned after his ten minutes in the sin bin.

The game was a little frenetic with both sides having chances and it was the visitors who were next to score with a converted try to close the gap to 16-14. Rob Cuffe replaced Kemp Price in the back row. Raiders continued to look dangerous but in playing this high tempo style of play errors can easily occur and it was such an error, a knock on, that prevented another possible score for the home side.

With just over 30 minutes of the half played Clifton managed to breach the Raiders’ defence and score another converted try to take the lead at 16-21. Within a couple of minutes, the situation became worse for the home side when a penalty was awarded against them at the scrum and Clifton gladly accepted the three points on offer to extend their lead to 16-24.

With only four minutes left Raiders continued to search for holes in the visitors’ defence. From a lineout the ball went across the field to Harrison Sims who made the initial break before feeding the ball to Forrest who outstripped the cover defence to touch down in the corner. McLean converted from the touchline to make the score 23-24 with two minutes left to play.

As the try was scored Clifton were guilty of an infringement that caused the referee to award a penalty to Raiders at the kick-off. A fifty-metre kick at goal or a kick to the corner were the options. In the end they kicked to the corner but after Raiders making every effort to get that final score to win the game the Clifton defence held out and the whistle went for full time.

Attendance: 412

Referee: Neil Sweeney

Proto Food Group Man of the Match: Frank Taggart

Scorers: Tries: Sims, McLean, Forrest. Con: McLean. Pen: McLean x 2

Raiders: Ken Dowding 2. Henry Birch 3. Rhys Litterick 4. Jack Lee 5. Jack Lake 6. Elliott Quinton 7. Kemp Price – Capt 8. Frank Taggart 9. Rhys Morgan 10. Henry Anscombe 11. Will Beer 12. Harrison Sims 13. Jack Forrest 14. Levi Davis 15. Matt McLean. Bench: 16. Elliott Luke 17. Will Hobson 18. Rob Cuffe 19. Cam Dobinson 20. Kieran Leeming.