WORTHING Raiders Rugby Club suffered an opening-day defeat when they kicked off their National 2 South campaign on Saturday.
Kieron Dawson’s side travelled to Clifton in the first league game of the season and were on the wrong end of a 31-18 scoreline.
Raiders will view the game as one that got away after seeing a 18-11 half-time lead slip away.
Worthing struggled in the second period with Clifton scoring 20 unanswered points in the final 40 minutes but head coach Dawson felt his side gave their best efforts.
He said: “It was always going to be hard with so many players missing.
“I can’t fault any of the players involved, they gave it a good go.
“But we didn’t deserve the victory and full credit to Clifton as they got the victory in the end.”
Worthing skipper Scott Barlow was unavailable for the clash, so Liam Perkins deputised as captain in his absence.
Matt McLean registered his first points of the season with a penalty to give Worthing an early lead.
That lead was to be shortlived, though, as James MacKay converted a penalty of his own to level the scores at three-apiece with seven minutes on the clock.
Clifton failed to deal with Worthing’s restart and that resulted in another penalty being awarded to Raiders.
The ever reliable McLean stepped up once again, this time from 40 yards, and made no mistake to restore his side’s three-point lead.
The early exchanges belonged to both McLean and MacKay, with the latter converting another penalty to put Clifton level once again.
Raiders were the first to touch down, through Elliott Luke on 13 minutes.
Sustained pressure from the visitors eventually saw Dan Sargent break through before slipping Luke in and he went over.
McLean added the extras to give himself three from three in the half.
Clifton responded almost immediately and reduced the deficit to just two points as right-wing Callum Roberts scored diving into the corner.
But Raiders managed to snatch another try when McLean went over on 35 minutes to give Raiders a 18-11 lead going into the interval.
With just under two minutes played in the second half, Worthing conceded a penalty and MacKay converted to make the score 18-14.
Clifton were then reduced to 14 and then 13 men in quick succession after two of their players received yellow cards. Raiders were also soon a man down when Loewy Simmons was yellow carded for not retreating ten yards before making the try saving tackle. Mackay again kicked the penalty to make the score 18-17.
Clifton took the lead for the first time with 12 minutes remaining. After a sloppy period of the half from both sides, Clifton’s Allen Wheeler broke away and went over in the corner. The conversion was successful to give the home side a 24-11 lead.
With the game entering the final ten minutes, Clifton were in control and made sure of the victory seven minutes from time when Roberts went over for his second try of the game, although Raiders’ supporters felt the final pass was forward. The conversion made the score 31-18.
Worthing continued to attack but Clifton held on for the win.
Raiders host Old Elthamians on Saturday.
RAIDERS: Storer, Luke, Sargent, Watts, Redmayne, Whittall, Hewick; Perkins, Peach, O’Hagan, Greenwood, Leeming, Wilcockson, McLean, Davies. Subs: Ibuanokpe, Miles, Dawson, Lake, Simmons.
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