IT was a case of one that got away as Worthing Raiders Rugby Club suffered a narrow defeat in their opening home game of National 1 this afternoon.
Newly-promoted Raiders suffered a 27-22 defeat against Blackheath in a match they could, and probably should have won at a packed Roundstone Lane.
A bonus point for the closeness of the scoreline was Raiders’ profits for the afternoon as a late converted Geoff Griffiths try swung the game in Blackheath’s favour.
In a penalty-scattered opening, Joe Govett had an early chance to slot Raiders ahead, but the nine pulled a kickable penalty wide of the left-hand post.
After 12 minutes, David Marshall did exactly the same after Raiders were penalised for a coming in at the side.
Two minutes later and Raiders profited from their fourth penalty of the afternoon as a Blackheath opponent failed to roll away from a ruck and Govett’s long-range kick was, this time, on the money.
Back at the other end, Marshall again miscued an effort with what should have been a given three points from a penalty.
On 19 minutes, Alex Nielsen grounded for Raiders in the corner after an excellent break but the Worthing winger was adjudged to have gone into touch en route.
The first try of the afternoon went to visitors on 23 minutes as Joe Walsh picked up an offload as Blackheath raced forwards, and, despite a conversation with his touch judge the referee deemed, what look suspiciously like a forward pass, was legal.
Marshall again missed his kick for the extras which struck the left upright.
Worthing were dealt an advantage with 13 minutes left of the half as James Catt was binned for ten minutes after an infringement on Govett, who was trying to pick up after a maul.
The home side, however, failed to make inroads despite their numerical advantage by lacking a clinical finesse in the opponents’ 22.
James Chisholm slipped after an offload when he looked certain to cross, while Jack Maslen knocked on from a lovely lofted kick from Kieran Leeming.
Blackheath, back up to a full quota with Catt back on the field, put themselves further ahead on the stroke of half-time as Griffiths crossed after a nice switch on the outside from Michael Canty despite Kiba Richards looking like he’d turned over the ball.
Marshall converted with the final touch of the half to give the London-based visitors a flattering lead at the interval.
An offside offence at the start of the first half saw Marshall slot over another three points, before Raiders kicked into life.
Nielsen, who was begging to get into the game for much of the first half, collected and carved through his opponents to break from his own 22 into the Blackheath half, and Govett picked up and latched onto his own chipped kick to cross and finish a cracking piece of rugby.
Govett’s attempt at the extras sliced across the front of the posts, but nevertheless Raiders had their tails up despite trailing 15-8.
Another trademark Nielsen break and kick ahead, after a pass on the outside from Ollie Richards, was stopped after Canty blocked off his run.
From the resulting scrum, Worthing put their opponents under pressure and Govett picked up to stretch across under the posts, and the kicker then duly converted to level the scores.
The scores were on par, however, for just three minutes as Blackheath got numbers overs the outside and the ball was played out to Liam Gibson who crossed in the corner despite pressure from Maslen.
With 12 minutes to go with the game running at full speed, James Chisholm sparked the home crowd into life as he stretched across after a rolling maul and Govett put over a fine conversion from out wide to put Raiders ahead.
Blackheath had a fine opportunity to retake the lead with seven minutes left as Marshall was gifted a simple-looking penalty, but he succumbed to the pressure and dragged his kick wide - his fourth miss of the afternoon.
Blackheath turned up the pressure in the closing stages and Raiders looked to have repelled a series of attacks with a couple of try-saving tackles, but Griffiths picked up a kicked clearance and jinxed through on 76 minutes to cross under the posts and Marshall converted to secure the victory.
RAIDERS: Greenwood, Maslen, O.Richards, K.Richards, Nielsen, Leeming, Govett, O’Sullivan, Cleveland, Sargent, Gaynor, Barlow, Redmayne, Hewick, Chisholm. Subs: Pointing, Heaver (O’Sullivan 79), Sewell (Barlow 74), Dudley, Coxon-Smith (Maslen 75).
BLACKHEATH: Canty, Griffiths, Burcham, Whatling, Gibson, Marshall, Walsh, Winwood, O’Meara, Brett, Bason, Stradwick, Paddick, Allen, Catt. Subs: Grier, Culley (Brett, Bason 75), Oram (Paddick 51), Munton (Walsh 61), Windsor (Whatling 57).