WORTHING Raiders Rugby Club were left wondering what might have been on Saturday when they went down 29-27 at Southend in National 2 South.
Raiders had to make do with just the one point from a tight, well-contested encounter and team manager David Hinchliffe admitted that he, and the players, came off the field asking themselves “what if?”.
Hinchliffe described the game as a “see-saw match” but was left to rue a Southend conversion, a late penalty that was not awarded and a couple of decisions that could have changed the result for them.
He said: “There was very little between the two sides and their manager said to me after the game they were very lucky to win it. In close games like that, little things swing games and can make all the difference.
“There were little things like, at one point, Matt (McLean) could have offloaded and we probably would have scored. We got away with a throw-in which was not fully within the laws of the game, while they were awarded a conversion which didn’t actually go through the posts, so things sort of even themselves out.
“The way we see it is that at tough places to go like Southend, anything at all we get is a bonus. It was good to get a point but as it was, it could have easily been two, a draw, while another try would have given us four for a bonus point and won us the game.
“But it was a good performance away at a top five side and the boys were disappointed not to come away with more from it. We were well in their half near the death and even were denied a penalty, which could have won it for us. After that, they managed to clear and you could see they were just happy to see it out.”
With the lead changing numerous times throughout the game, McLean first kicked Raiders into a 3-0 lead, before Ben Dudley won a lineout, which freed Matt Miles to run a splendid line and score near the posts, which McLean converted on 12 minutes.
Southend’s Mike Stanley then went over, and, although there was an offside shout in the build-up, it stood, before the conversion flew right of the posts but was still awarded.
This galvanised Raiders and Greg Sullivan crossed for their second try, and McLean duly added the extras for a 17-7 lead.
Southend then hit back and a penalty, followed by a try apiece from Nick Grier and Sean Vine, the latter of which was converted, gave them a 22-17 half-time lead
After the break, Paul Dunckley intercepted for Richard Briggs to break and McLean again added the extras to regain the lead. A period of sustained pressure then led to Southend’s Stanley finding a gap and touching down, with the extras forthcoming.
McLean kicked over to narrow Southend’s lead to two points at 29-27, and despite pressure the home side defended well and held out.
Raiders now travel to sixth-placed Taunton on Saturday and Hinchliffe added: “We can go to sides and don’t need to be afraid of them. They have had a few injury worries of late, so there is no reason we can’t go there, build on Saturday, and come away with a result.”
WORTHING: McLean, Govett, Sullivan, Dunkley, Briggs, Dudley, Costigan, Bruce, Pointing, Webster, Coxon-Smith, MacGowan, Arthur, Miles, Hewick. Subs: Pitchford, Redmayne, Emmett, Marsh, Nielsen.