WORTHING Raiders Rugby Club failed to make a winning start to the year on Saturday when they suffered a 36-27 defeat at Old Albanians.
Raiders had to make do with just a bonus point from their National 2 South match against a strong Albanians side, who extracted revenge after Worthing had beaten them earlier in the season.
Raiders’ strong defensive performance in the first half failed to show in the scoreline as they were 31-8 down early in the second period, but they fought back to earn a four-try bonus point.
Worthing head coach Will Green took the positives from the clash and is confident after four straight defeats that a win is not far away.
He said: “It was disappointing as we defended very well in the first half.
“Although they could have run away with it at one stage, so I was pleased we managed to come back into it after a poor start to the second half.
“A losing bonus point was all we could have have expected after what was a poor spell for us.
“They were very strong and ran at us, with some big men out wide, and in the first half we didn’t look after the ball as well as we should.
“We lost it seven or eight times, so we’ll be working at ball retention and looking to get back to winning ways.”
Early possession from the hosts went unrewarded as the Worthing pack were tested in defence in a dominant Albanians spell.
Despite three kickable penalties in this time, Albanians full-back Richard Gregg missed with all of his efforts, while Worthing, who showed signs of flowing rugby, took the lead when Rob Smith touched down in the right-hand corner.
Having gone behind, Albanians’ pressure continued and they levelled things up on 26 minutes when Andrew Daish crossed the line after a lineout.
A running score from Gregg as half-time approached gave Albanians a 17-5 lead but a Matt McLean penalty made the half-time score 17-8.
Two quick converted tries within the first nine minutes of the second saw put Albanians well in control at 31-8 and they threatened a rout.
But a quick break down the left from Raiders’ Finlay Coxon-Smith saw him go all the way and cross the line, while Matt McLean was on hand to send over the extras.
A strong move from the Worthing pack saw them drive through to the 22-metre line, and offload for Greg Sullivan to score, as McLean again converted to pull the score back to 31-22.
Albanians, however, extended their lead from an ambitious penalty kick from Gregg on 75 minutes to give them a 14-point cushion heading into the closing stages.
Worthing did break through the Albanians backline again in the closing stages when Sam Hewick touched down out wide to secure their fourth try and a losing bonus point.
Raiders entertain second-from-bottom Hinckley at Roundstone Lane on Saturday. Kick-off is 2pm.
WORTHING: McLean, Govett, Sullivan, Dunkley, Briggs, Dudley, Marsh, Bruce, Miles, Webster, Coxon-Smith, McGowan, Arthur, Redmayne, Smith. Subs (all used): Pointing, Emmett, Hewick, Costigan, Nielsen.