Raiders against Hawks could now be title decider

Jordan Burns

Jordan Burns

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THE postponement of Worthing Raiders Rugby Club’s top-of-the-table clash with Henley Hawks on Saturday means the Roundstone Lane outfit will now travel up to Henley for what could amount to a play-off for the National 2 South title on May 4.

Heavy overnight rain, followed by snow swirling in off the Chilterns, meant the pitch had no chance of passing a 9.30am inspection on Saturday, with Raiders receiving the call early enough to prevent them and a coachload of fans setting off on a fruitless journey.

Raiders head coach Kieron Dawson had, for the first time in weeks, virtually a full squad to choose from.

Only the free-scoring winger Jack Maslen was ruled out with a foot injury and his absence was covered by the inclusion of the Harlequins’ loanee Jordan Burns.

Burns’ availability for the remaining five matches depends on his involvement with the England under-19 squad.

Dawson is delighted to be able to call on players like Burns, but is also mindful of the affect it can have on the squad in general.

He said:“It was a tough selection, we had to leave out some who’ve become regular starters over the past few weeks.

“Team continuity can be upset. Putting in players like that when they are not always going to be around can be disruptive.

“Nick Buoy (assistant coach) and myself have always tried to empower the players to take control, it’s their team. When the Henley game was called off, the players immediately decided to organise their own training session and do some gym work, even though they could have all gone straight home.

“Sometimes it’s good to be dictatorial, but the players here know the high standards that are required. And when they’re on the field they fight for each other. “

While the fans may be looking ahead to the end-of-season encounter at hopefully a much drier Dry Leas, next up for Worthing is a meeting with Southend at home this Saturday.

Southend beat Canterbury 15-11 in one of two games played in the division at the weekend.

The other saw third-placed Redruth go down 15-14 at Dings Crusaders and, in effect, ruling themselves out of the title race.

Dawson added: “That doesn’t mean they won’t play a part because they’re a proud team and they’ll lift themselves to play against the top sides now.”

For Worthing, it’s five games to play against sides they’ve already beaten convincingly this season, with the top prize likely to be settled at Henley at the start of May.

ANDY SMITH