Bonus points are Raiders’ prize after dramatic fightback

The Raiders put up a brave fight in the league opener
The Raiders put up a brave fight in the league opener

WORTHING Raiders Rugby Club returned from Wharfedale with two bonus point and a host of positives to build on after a 38-34 defeat in their first-ever National 1 fixture this afternoon.

Raiders were outplayed in the first half by a powerful Yorkshire outfit and trailed 25-5 at half-time and 38-12 on the hour mark.

A dramatic fight-back, however, in the final ten minutes saw Raiders put down four tries as we saw some of their promotion-winning play from last season.

It was a tremendous show of character from Raiders, who looked dead and buried at stages, but they will take great positives from what they achieved in the closing stages.

The opening try came after just four minutes from a line-out after Wharfedale kicked well into Raiders’ territory from a penalty.

The home side collected and all but one player joined the pack to powerfully drive across the line with the ball grounded under a pile of bodies.

With swirling wind and rain coming down hard, Tom Barrett’s kick for the extras sailed wide of the right-hand post.

It took just eight minutes for Raiders to level, however, as with the sun emerging from the Yorkshire hills, Joe Heaver slipped through after a Worthing line-out just yards from the hosts’ line.

Govett, however, sent a poor kick wide off the post from the conversion, and the hosts led again 8-5 two minutes later as Barrett secured three points with his boot via a penalty.

A cracking running try gave them some breathing space on 19 minutes as Barrett broke through two-on-one at Raiders’ 22, offloaded to Rob Baldwin, who galloped home, and a simple conversion for Barrett saw Wharfedale take a 15-5 lead.

Moments after Joe Burns had limped off on 27 minutes having fallen victim to some of the hosts’ power, they again showed their strength with another try.

The Wharfedale pack drove into the 22, and, despite some good resistance from Raiders, who looked to have almost cleared the danger after holding up on the line, Aaron Myers eventually crashed over.

Ebriety again added the extras and another penalty four minutes later to take the score to 25-5.

Just seven minutes into the second half and Raiders had given away another two penalties for offside infringements and Barrett duly obliged with adding another six points.

On 58 minutes, Raiders scored a cracking try as James Chisholm broke from inside their own 22 after a scrum and Ben Dudley played a key part in feeding Kiba Richards as the ball worked across field as he raced over in the corner.

Govett put over a fine long-range conversion to pull the score back to 31-12.

Just minutes later, however, and Wharfedale touched down their fourth try of the afternoon as Will Bell intercepted a Dudley pass and went clear under the posts leaving Barrett another simple kick to take the score to 38-12.

Raiders then made a late push for a bonus point as Govett collected a kick and fed Alex Nielsen for a trademark run on the wing, who put in Jack Maslen, and, with a side step of his man, he went through.

Govett’s kick for the extras pulled the score back to 38-19 and Raiders had their tails up with six minutes remaining.

And with just two minutes left, Nielsen raced across the line to latch onto a Kieran Leeming kick and ground the ball sealing the bonus point in dramatic fashion, despite sliding out of play and crashing into the fence in the process.

But Raiders weren’t finished there - they ran in another two tries to secure a second bonus point in a grand-stand finish as Ollie Richards crossed and Nielsen scored a fine individual try in the last play of the game.

Govett, however, was unable to put over either of the conversion attempts and Raiders finished four points shy of the hosts’ total.

RAIDERS: Leeming, Maslen, O.Richards, K.Richards, Nielsen, Dudley, Govett, Cleveland, Pointing, Burns, Gaynor, Barlow, Redmayne, Heaver, Sewell. Subs: Sargent (Pointing 63), Hewick (Sewell 57), O’Sullivan (Burns 27), Greenwood (Dudley 67) , Chisholm (Heaver 40).