WORTHING Raiders Rugby Club finally clinched the National 2 South top spot on Saturday as they profited from Richmond’s slip-up – but head coach Kieron Dawson believes the real test for his side starts now.
Former leaders Richmond suffered a 37-24 defeat to third-place Henley, while Raiders’ hard-fought and action-packed victory in front of 850 at Taunton saw them jump to the top of the table.
Dawson admitted it was a fantastic feeling to finally overtake Richmond, but said: “We must now play every game like we are still second. Each match is equally important as when you’re top, everyone is gunning for you that much more and they want you to slip up.
“But it’s a great feeling being top going into the halfway stage of the season – although we know it is only half a job done.
“It will give the team great confidence as we have a lot of bumps and bruises at the moment. We don’t have the biggest squad, but, hopefully, being top can help carry us through a difficult period when bodies are sore.”
Raiders started the brighter and Matt McLean slotting over a penalty after an offside offence with three minutes gone to put them ahed
Despite more Worthing attacks, the home side scored next as they turned the ball over and Reuben Haile crossed for Tony Yapp to convert on the 10-minute mark.Yapp then put a penalty over the posts to give them a 10-7 lead.
A Matt Miles interception then got Raiders back into it as he sprinted for the line and crossed under the posts leaving McLean a simple kick to level the scores.
Worthing retook the lead five minutes later as Will Stutchbury drove over. Stutchbury then saw yellow on 30 minutes following repeated infringements and the home side made to extra-man advantage count before the break.
Worthing managed to hold the ball up on the line twice, before the pressure told as Sean Fox crossed to level the score at 15-15.
McLean saw yellow in the second half for a high tackle and Yapp slotted the resulting penalty to give Taunton the lead once more.
Taunton’s Joe Bartlett then earned a 10-minute rest on 64 minutes for impeding a quick tap penalty and it was Raiders’ turn to put the pressure on. Fernando Iraizoz burst across the line four minutes later – and combined with McLean conversion gave Worthing a 22-18 lead.
A grand-stand finish ensued where Taunton piled on the pressure for the last 10 minutes as Charlie McGowan saw red for a raised armed trying to break an opponent’s grip, but his team-mates held out.