WORTHING Raiders Rugby Club captain Matt Miles wants his side to hit the ground running in Saturday’s top-of-the-table clash at Henley Hawks.
Raiders sit top of National 2 South, seven points clear of second-placed Henley, who won 68-15 over Taunton Titans at the weekend.
Redruth’s surprise 20-12 loss at Canterbury on Saturday leaves Raiders and Henley in pole position for the top two places. Redruth and Hartpury both trail Worthing by 15 points, with a game in hand.
Looking ahead to Saturday, Miles said: “In the past, we’ve maybe not been at the races for the first 10 to 20 minutes but I know that the starting 15 on Saturday will hit the ground running.
“Last year we finished third when a couple of mental lapses cost us in some games but we’ve improved on that this year and have a bit more depth in the squad, too, with the academy and colts players.
“Henley have played some great rugby this season and it will be two great sides coming up against each other, who both play great running rugby. In terms of a spectacle, it should be a great game to watch.
“We’ve just got to go into the game and keep doing what we have been doing all season.
“The way we approach each game hasn’t changed. We want to play rugby, score tries and get five points and that’s how we’ll be approaching our last five games.”
Victory for Worthing – who won 49-5 at home to Henley in November – would make them firm favourites to lift the title but Miles said: “It’s too soon to say that it’s just between the top two. Redruth’s defeat was quite a shock but, in a way, it puts more pressure on us as it really is down to what we do now.
“Hartpury will also be looking to finish in the top two. Their players are out of the Uni Cup now, so will be giving it all they’ve got.
“We have one of the easier run-ins out of the four or five teams at the top but that’s not saying we haven’t got tricky games to come – especially with Cornish All Blacks away at the end of the season.”
Raiders head coach Kieron Dawson has a strong squad available, with Joe Burns, Scott Barlow, Jordan Burns, Luke Peters and Finlay Coxon-Smith back available, while Pete Cleveland could also return from a twisted knee injury.
Henley have injury doubts as Ryan Newman (knee), Jevon Marsh (dislocated elbow) and Ben Ashmore (dislocated shoulder) all went off injured against Taunton and Hugo Milford-Scott could be out with a hip injury.
Dawson said: “I hope they’re at full strength, so they can have no excuses about the result.
“If we can get a couple of bonus points, we’ll still be in a strong position, while I think it’s must-win for Henley, as they still have Redruth and Hartpury to play as well.”