Worthing Raiders put in an all-round top performance in final game

Elliott Luke scored a try in the win. Picture by Stephen Goodger
Elliott Luke scored a try in the win. Picture by Stephen Goodger

Game 30, the final match in a long, hard and injury hit season.

A big crowd of more than 600 were in attendance for the visit of Taunton Titans. With the ground dry and firm a fast, open game was expected. The gale force wind could have spoilt the game but both sides coped extremely well and it didn’t detract from the excellent rugby on display.

Raiders’ selection saw Harry Forrest, Jack Lake, Jon Whittall, Michael Dingle and Rhys Litterick unavailable and they were replaced by Harry Barlow, Jack Lee, George Hammond and Ryan Maguire. Kiba Richards also returned to the squad. Jack Maslen was playing his final game before retiring after 145 appearances.

Raiders kicked off into the teeth of the gale and were quickly on the scoreboard. The home side stole the ball at a Taunton lineout, Matt Walsh used the box kick and when a defender fumbled the ball John Dawe was on hand to scoop up the ball and outpaced the defence from forty five metres to score under the posts. Matt McLean converted to give Raiders an early 7-0 lead.

Titans used the ball to good effect but the home side’s defence was outstanding during the first half.

Raiders extended the lead after nine minutes. From a scrum just outside the Taunton half Kiba Richards carried the ball up the blindside, from the ruck the ball was moved back into midfield where Matt McLean received it on the halfway line, he cut through the first line of defence and then went on an arcing run to score in the corner. With the difficult conversion into the wind missed Raiders’ lead was extended to 12-0.

During this period the visitors made excellent use of the wind to gain territory. They then maintained possession well until they got their first try of the afternoon. With the conversion missed the score was 12-5 after fifteen minutes.

From one long kick down field Jack Maslen collected the ball deep in his own twenty two metre area and then set off on a defence splitting sixty metre run to take Raiders well into Taunton’s territory. The home side were able to maintain possession and press on towards the visitors’ try line. When a penalty was awarded Raiders opted to scrummage. Kiba Richards picked up and created a ruck close to the try line, the ball was quickly passed into midfield for Harry Barlow to crash through the defence and score next to the posts. Matt Converted to open the gap to 19-5.

Taunton were playing their part in entertaining the crowd and came close to scoring after breaking out of defence and making sixty metres before Curtis Barnes used his pace to tackle the Taunton player into touch short of the line.

The home side’s lineout was functioning well and producing quality possession. From one such lineout Raiders linked well between backs and forwards to put more pressure on Titans’ defence. This pressure drew a penalty on halfway but the kick to the corner failed to find touch and the defender was able to clear his lines with a long kick down the field. This was collected by Matt McLean who ran it back before giving to Curtis Barnes who made a typical illusive sprint towards the visitors’ try line. When eventually stopped a couple of quick rucks created a gap for Kiba Richards to break through and score unopposed. Matt again converted to take the score to 26-5.

George Hammond was performing brilliantly in the lineout and claimed his second steal of the afternoon to put Raiders back on the attack. When a penalty was awarded Matt Walsh was off in a flash and was just bundled into touch five metres short of the line.

As halftime approached the home side scored their fifth try when from a lineout Matt Walsh passed to John Dawe who cut a great line to pierce the defence and sprint in to touch down under the posts. Another conversion from Matt McLean stretched the lead to 33-5.

The first half had been an exhilarating forty minutes of rugby. Raiders possibly playing their best rugby of the season with the defence looking very strong and their attacking play second to none.

Half time score: Worthing Raiders 33 Taunton Titans 5

As often happens to Raiders this season, within a couple of minutes of the restart Taunton had scored a converted try to close the gap to 33-12.

Despite this setback Raiders were soon back on the attack and after another steal at a Titans’ lineout Elliott Luke scored in the corner to stretch the lead to 38-12.

The home side started to use their bench in order to maintain the high pace of the game and the first change saw Jordan Gibson on for Elliott Luke. Throughout the half the rest of the bench were introduced at intervals and all played their part in maintaining the high standard of the team’s performance.

Matt McLean was next to score. A clever box kick from Matt Walsh had produced a Raiders’ lineout five metres from the Taunton try line, the forwards efficiently caught and drove towards the line, then Matt Walsh fed McLean on an angled run to score and then convert the try. 45-12

Titans continued to play their part in this exciting game with their third try which was converted to close the gap to 45-19.

Taunton now had the goal of achieving the bonus point try to reach 100 points for the season. They ran the ball from all parts of the pitch, all penalties were tapped to maintain momentum. All in all this produced plenty of open, running rugby for both sets of supporters to appreciate.

The visitors found themselves deep in their own territory but continued to move the ball through the hands in order to break out of defence. After several phases John Dawe tackled and stripped the ball off the Taunton player and romped in to score his third try of the match. Matt’s conversion extended the lead to 52-19.

Raiders looked as though they might score at any time as they zipped the ball about at great pace. One such move saw Matt McLean pulled up just short of the line but shortly after another length of the field attack involving several players ended with a try for Ben Holt. The conversion bringing the score to 59-19.

Titans then achieved their goal of a fourth try which was converted bringing the score to 59-26.

The game as it neared its end was still being played at great pace and was going from end to end.

Matt McLean completed the scoring for the home side with his third try which he again converted. 66-26

The visitors had the final say when they collected their fifth try of the afternoon to complete the scoring.

Full time score: Worthing Raiders 66 Taunton Titans 31

An all-round top performance by the home side in front of their loyal supporters. The scrum had been solid, the lineout outstanding and the running of the backs exhilarating. A great way to end the season.

Well done to Taunton Titans who contributed greatly to the exciting rugby and ended their season in fifth place with 100 points.

After a shaky period from January to March a fine end of season run, producing 17 points from a possible 20 points, sees Raiders in ninth position with 68 points.

Congratulations to Matt McLean, who has played every minute of every game in the 2018/19 season and scored 31 points in the match. He has ended the season as the top points’ scorer in National 2 South with 352 points, for the second time.

Finally the coaches and players wish to thank the supporters for getting behind the team throughout the season. It is greatly appreciated.

Referee: Richard Haughton

B & W Man of the Match: John Dawe

Scorers: Tries: Dawe x 3, McLean x 3, Barlow, Richards, Luke, Holt

Cons: Matt McLean x 8

B & W Man of the Match: John Dawe

Team: 15. Harry Barlow 14. Jack Maslen 13. Jack Forrest 12. John Dawe 11. Curtis Barnes 10. Matt McLean 9. Matt Walsh – Captain (Holt 50 mins) 1. Henry Birch 2. Elliott Luke (Gibson 50 mins) 3. Kieran Sassone (Gatford 66 mins) 4. Rob Cuffe (Lee 54 mins) 5. George Hammond (Cuffe 66 mins) 6. Ryan Maguire 7. George Harris 8. Kiba Richards

Bench: 16. Jordan Gibson 17. Grant Gatford 18. Sam Cook 19. Ben Holt 23. Jack Lee

Attendance: 603