WORTHING Raiders Rugby Club’s hopes of survival in National 1 took a hammer blow with a 32-24 defeat at home to Blaydon this afternoon.
A late Matt McLean try gave Raiders a losing bonus point but Loughborough winning and Cinderford securing a draw with Tynedale counted against Worthing, who remain in the bottom three.
Raiders now must rely on other results as well as winning their remaining two games to stand any chance of avoiding an immediate return to National 2 South.
Both sides named their respective top brass on the bench with head coach Kieron Dawson amongst the Raiders’ replacements, and former Newcastle Falcons prop Micky Ward, now Blaydon director of rugby, in their five substitutes.
The northern side travelled with a skeleton coaching staff and drove the 680-mile round trip in cars rather than a coach.
Harlequins loanee James Chisholm dropped to the bench for Raiders while London Irish’s Richard Palframan was also a replacement.
The home side got off to the perfect start as Joe Govett kicked for touch from a penalty, and, from the resulting line-out, Kiba Richards produced a lovely burst from the back to pop up for Liam Perkins, who crossed.
Govett added the extras for an early 7-0 lead.
They should have been further ahead on five minutes, but for a silly error from Jordan Burns.
He raced away after a Charlie McGowan break, but slowed down by the posts thinking he was home, only for a Blaydon man to get back and force a knock on.
Moments later the visitors were reduced to 14 men as Sean Brown deliberately knocked on in their own 22.
Ben Loosmore then dropped a pass after Jordan Burns skipped across the park creating space when he had an easy route home, before Blaydon made the hosts pay for their errors.
Chris Wearmouth touched down in the corner as Raiders failed to clear, to pull the score back to 7-5.
On 19 minutes, Blaydon took the lead after kicking for touch and driving over from the line-out as Harry Bate grounded, although Govett charged down the conversion.
Eight minutes later, Blaydon scored again as Ollie Richards intercepted in the Raiders’ 22, but popped the ball back up to Brown, who stretched across to put them 15-7.
Raiders pulled to within a point at on 33 minutes with a well-crafted try. A Ben Dudley chipped kick was latched onto by Ollie Richards deep inside the Blaydon 22 and Kiba Richards was on hand to collect the pass and cross, with Govett slotting over the extras.
In the closing stages of the first half, McLean did well to dive on and ground the loose ball after a lofted kick forwards, but play was pulled back for an earlier high tackle by the referee, and from the penalty Govett’s kick hit the post.
Baggett put the visitors further ahead three minutes into the second half as his penalty went over via the post with his first successful kick of the afternoon.
But Raiders were not in the mood to roll over and started to dominate the possession early in the second half, which paid off on 53 minutes.
They worked left to right and back left again, and eventually Kiba Richards found space in the corner for his second of the afternoon to give them a 19-18 lead.
But Blaydon hit straight back as Bramwell hit the line for a converted try to retake the lead four minutes later.
They crossed again on 61 minutes as Raiders failed to clear there lines after a couple of penalties and Andrew Davies found a gap for another converted try to take the score to 32-19.
Blaydon were reduced to 14 men on 78 minutes as Wearmouth was shown a yellow card for hands on the floor and they were down to 13 with just four minutes left as Jason Smithson was shown a yellow.
Raiders’ late pressure told as McLean dived over in the corner after a scrum to secure their fourth try and a bonus point.
Govett’s attempt at the extras, which turned out to be the final action of the match, would have secured a second bonus point if successful, but it fell just short.
RAIDERS: McLean, Loosmore, K.Richards, O.Richards, Govett, Dudley, Jordan Burns, Sargent, Pointing, Joe Burns, Barlow, McGowan, Smith, Hewick, Perkins. Subs: Cleveland (Pointing 43), Dawson (Dudley 63), Palframan (Burns 29), Gaynor (Barlow 53), Chisholm (Perkins 52).