WORTHING Raiders Rugby Club won a thrilling National 2 South clash with Hartpury College on Saturday.
In a back and forth contest, leaders Raiders survived heavy pressure in the final few minutes, while a man down, to record their 17th victory in 20 league games this season.
The victory keeps them top, although they are now just seven points ahead of Henley, who picked up a bonus-point 54-33 win at Bournemouth, while Raiders failed to pick up a bonus point from their victory.
Third-placed Redruth went down 35-34 at Chinnor and are now 11 points behind Worthing with two games in hand.
Hartpury remain in fourth, 14 points behind Worthing with a game in hand.
The teams exchanged early penalties - Joe Govett for Worthing and Craig Jackson for Hartpury - before Jack Maslen touched down in the corner for Raiders and Govett conveted to make it 10-3 on 12 minutes.
Hartpury levelled three minutes later through a converted Sean Marsden try, before the visitors went 13-10 ahead with a Jackson penalty on 28 minutes.
Kiba Richards went over under the posts to put Worthing back ahead and Govett again converted.
Jackson nailed a penalty with the last kick of the first half and kicked another at the start of the second period to put the visitors 19-17 ahead after 43 minutes.
Govett touched down after an excellent break by Alex Nielsen to move Worthing back ahead and he converted his own try to make the score 24-19 after 52 minutes.
Jackson and Govett exchanged penalties again, which made the score 27-22, and Worthing then survived heavy pressure in the closing stages, with Joe Heaver sinbinned, to hold on for the win.
Raiders head coach Kieron Dawson said: “It was a great game of rugby and we showed great heart and determination.
“We’re delighted with the win against a very strong team and it was a great spectacle.”
For full report, reaction and pictures, see the February 21 edition of the Worthing Herald.