WORTHING Raiders Rugby Club produced their best performance of the season as they completed the double over champions Henley Hawks with a 28-22 win on Saturday.
Henley made the livelier start at Dry Leas and could have scored after two minutes were it not for an excellent tackle by Joe Marchant just short of the Raiders try line.
After ten minutes of persistent pressure from Henley, Raiders came back into the game and the next 15 minutes produced some of the most entertaining rugby of the season, with both teams attacking and defending their respective try lines superbly in an end-to-end passage of play.
The scoring was finally opened in the 22nd minute when Marchant dived over in the corner after some excellent work between the forwards and the backs from a line-out. Matt McLean converted to put Worthing 7-0 ahead.
Henley responded within three minutes when a rolling maul steamrollered over the Raiders line from ten metres, with Nathan Taylor adjudged to have touched down.
The game continued at the same frenetic pace and in the 29th minute Raiders scored through the outstretched arm of Liam Perkins, who galloped in from 25 metres off the back of a line-out and McLean again added the extras.
Just before the break, Henley launched several big drives towards the Raiders line before Lloyd Owen scored in the corner having received a long pass out on the wing and George Eastwell converted.
The whistle blew for half-time to bring the curtain down on arguably what most spectators would agree was the most entertaining 40 minutes of rugby they had witnessed this season, with both teams playing their part equally.
Raiders stayed out on the pitch in the half-time break, before the second half started in the same intense manner as the first half.
Four minutes into the half, Raiders turned Henley over and the ball was passed between the forwards and backs before some excellent interplay involving McLean and Marchant resulted in Marchant’s second try of the afternoon under the posts. McLean again converted to put Raiders 21-12 ahead.
Raiders started to take a little more control of the game at this stage, particularly in the forwards, and, in the 59th minute, were awarded a penalty six metres from the Henley line. They opted for a scrum which Henley deliberately turned and a penalty try was awarded, with McLean again converting.
The last 15 minutes saw a number of changes and injuries which changed the dynamics of the game. Scott Barlow received a yellow card in the 68th minute, which meant Raiders were down to 14 men against a now rampant Henley.
Despite their situation, Worthing defended their line valiantly against the Henley onslaught but the pressure became overwhelming and the hosts scored from a rolling maul with Matthew Payne touching down in the 70th minute. Raiders’ situation worsened when Perkins was yellow carded, which left them to play the last few minutes of the game with 13 men.
They continued to defend bravely but, in the last meaningful action of the match, Henley scored a try from another rolling maul through David Clements.
The final whistle soon blew and Raiders had held on to win a thoroughly entertaining and bruising match.
Raiders head coach Kieron Dawson said: “I was very proud of the performance and it was our best of the season.
“The scoreline flattered Henley and it’s just a shame that we dropped points in other fixtures throughout the season.”
Worthing complete their season away to Old Elthamians on Saturday (3pm).
RAIDERS: Storer, Miles, Sargent, Barlow, McGowan, Redmayne, Hewick, Perkins, Leeming, Marchant, Coxon-Smith, Loosmore, Greenwood, McLean. Subs: Lake, Whittall, Finney, Dudley, Luke.