KIERON Dawson is predicting a backlash for leaders Doncaster Knights when Worthing Raiders Rugby Club return to action in the new year.
Head coach Dawson’s side suffered what he called a “gut-wrenching” 16-14 defeat away to Blackheath in National 1 on Saturday when the hosts scored a last-minute try to win the game.
The defeat was Raiders’ seventh this season by six points or fewer but Dawson was full of praise for his side’s performance and is optimisic heading into the new year.
Worthing are without a game this weekend, before they host Doncaster on January 4. Raiders will be training on Saturday and again on January 2 in preparation for the match and Dawson said: “Doncaster are a full-time outfit and I expect they’ll be training over Christmas.
“We’ve given the players a week off as our training nights have fallen on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day this year but we’ll keep ticking over, with training on Saturday and again on January 2.
“Doncaster won’t be complacent when they come down here but, hopefully, we’ll be able to catch them out with a backlash after Saturday’s defeat. We’ll still be licking our wounds and will be looking to put in a performance.
“We’ve lost seven games this season by six points or less, which is ludicrous, really. But we’ve been close in every game and I’m optimistic heading into the new year that we can start turning these narrow defeats into wins.”
Raiders welcomed back James Chisholm on Saturday and Dawson called the Harlequins’ back row’s performance “outstanding”. Jack Maslen was also back in the squad for the first time since September, although did not get on the pitch. Ollie Richards missed out with a hip injury and Ben Dudley through illness, although both will be back for the Doncaster match. Liam Perkins could also return but Rob Smith is unlikey to be back for the game.
Matt McLean is still on course for a comeback late in January, and fellow long-term injury absentee Matt Farnes is targeting the first pre-season game of the 2013-14 campaign.