Game thirteen of the season brought Tonbridge Juddians to Roundstone Lane for, what in this league is a local derby.
Currently sitting in fourth place in the table and with an eye on promotion this was looking like another difficult game for Raiders.
The coaches were again hampered in selection due to the continuing absence of key players through injury. Sam Boyland being the latest to join the injury list after last week’s game at Rams.
George Harris, George Hammond and Kieran Sassone were unavailable so Michael Dingle, Alex Basson, Grant Gatford and Jordan Gibson replaced them in the match day squad.
After a week of rain training had taken place on a very soggy pitch during the week and although Friday was a warm, sunny day the rain returned early on Saturday morning and remained throughout the day making conditions very unpleasant for the players and spectators alike.
Raiders attacked the southern end of the ground in the first half and on a dark, wet afternoon it was the visitors who kicked off to start the match.
The home side had first use of the ball and showed it was possible to play good rugby even in these conditions. However it was the visitors who notched the first points after five minutes with a penalty to give them an early 0-3 lead.
The size of the visitors pack suggested that they might have the upper hand in the set pieces but this didn’t turn out to be the case, the home side comfortably matched them in the scrum, the lineout and the breakdown throughout the game and even became dominant in the latter stages of the second half.
The game was evenly matched throughout as the final score would indicate, the lead changing hands four times before the final whistle.
After conceding the first points of the game Raiders were straight back on the attack and came close to scoring after Jack Lee charged down an attempted clearance kick at a ruck not far from the try line. Unfortunately the defence held out and no points resulted for the home side.
After thirteen minutes Harry Forrest was tackled in the air as he caught a high ball and from the resulting penalty Raiders had a lineout on TJs’ twenty two metre line. The ball was taken off the top and moved to Harrison Sims who crashed over the gain line. Several phases followed before Matt McLean threw a long pass to Jack Maslen on the left wing and he romped in to score a fine try for the home side. Raiders taking the lead for the first time at 5-3.
From the restart the home side were again on the attack from a lineout, Harrison Sims again crashing over the gain line winning a penalty at the breakdown. Matt McLean kicked the points extending the lead to 8-3.
The first real mistake by Raiders came from the restart when they failed to clear the ball from inside their twenty two metre line. TJs accepted the ball gratefully and scored an unconverted try to level the scores at 8-8. The visitors followed this with a penalty to take the lead 8-11.
The try of the match came after thirty seven minutes when a shot at goal by TJs bounced back into play off the post. Michael Dingle collected the rebound and made ground up the centre of the pitch, the move was carried on by Rob Cuffe before Curtis Barnes was released to make one of his electrifying runs. Having made forty metres the ball was offloaded and arrived in the hands of Ben Holt who finished off the move to score under the posts. Matt McLean added the extras and the lead changed hands again. (15-11)
The half ended shortly after and despite the weather the crowd were thoroughly enjoying the excellent rugby on show in awful conditions.
Half time score: Worthing Raiders 15 Tonbridge Juddians 11
At half time Harry Forrest left the game injured and Matt Walsh came on and went to full back. Grant Gatford also joined the game replacing Tom Adams.
It was the home side that kicked off now attacking the northern end of the ground.
Although Raiders had plenty of possession and played with control and patience they couldn’t extend their lead. There was no further score until nearly twenty minutes into the half when the visitors scored a converted try from a scrum close to the Raiders’ try line. Thus the lead changed again to leave the home side three points adrift with twenty minutes to play.
TJs used the high kick and the chip kick regularly in an attempt to exploit the wet conditions but generally the Raiders’ defence coped with well this tactic.
With time drifting away and the light fading and the rain still falling the home side were pressing continually on the visitors’ defence seeking the vital breakthrough. TJs were definitely on the back foot and hoping they could hold out.
With three minutes left to play Raiders earned a penalty forty metres from goal, Matt McLean, as captain, took responsibility and elected for a shot at goal. The silent crowd waited in anticipation and were not disappointed as Matt’s kick sailed through the posts to tie the scores at 18-18.
The final minutes of the game saw Raiders permanently on the attack and when the visitors saw the clock was in the red they put the ball off the pitch and the referee blew for full time.
Full time score: Worthing Raiders 18 Tonbridge Juddians 18
Predictions for this match had all, apart from a small minority been for a comfortable win for TJs, so it was very pleasing that a draw had been earned although the coaches and players were still not 100% satisfied as they knew just how close they were to winning a very competitive match.
Tom Adams earned a well-deserved Man of the Match for his performance in the set piece and around the field.
The crowd of well over 300 had braved the elements and were rewarded with an excellent game of rugby and a fine result for the home side.
Referee: Iain Kiy
Scorers: Tries: Jack Maslen, Ben Holt. Cons: Matt McLean. Pens: Matt McLean x 2
B & W Man of the Match: Tom Adams
Team: 15. Harry Forrest (Walsh 40 mins) 14. Curtis Barnes 13. Kiba Richards 12. Harrison Sims 11. Jack Maslen 10. Matt McLean - Captain 9. Ben Holt (Basson 62 mins) 1. Henry Birch 2. Elliott Luke (Gibson 68 mins) 3. Tom Adams (Gatford 40 mins, Adams 68 mins) 4. Michael Dingle 5. Jack Lee 6. Jack Lake 7. Jon Whittall (Grief 76 mins) 8. Rob Cuffe
Bench: 16. Jordan Gibson 17. Grant Gatford 18. Will Grief 19. Matt Walsh 20. Alex Basson