WORTHING now has its club playing National League rugby for the first time in the town's history. Worthing Raiders, who finished second in London 1, convincingly disposed of South West runners-up Bracknell in the play-off.
In a close, clean, game they led at half-time by a try, its conversion, then a penalty, all by left-wing Ben Coulson, to a pushover try by Bracknell lock Kenny Barry that star kicker Ben Nowak, in his only shot at goal all game, pulled wide.
Then Coulson added a penalty from in front of the posts and later, in a re-shuffle when Alex Nielsen came off, popped up in the centre and passed to Duncan Taylor and that made plenty of space for replacement Matt Farnes to sprint in the final 30 metres unopposed on the right wing with his first touch of the ball.
It was the decisive moment. The game had just stopped for an injury and ex-England international player-coach Chris Sheasby had just brought himself on in an attempt to pull his side round.
That score, unconverted by Coulson, whose only miss still hit the very top of the far goalpost, meant Bracknell, with 20 minutes to save the game, had to throw the kitchen sink at Worthing in running the ball. Raiders were in their faces all the time and it was not until the dying moments that their opponents actually reached the Worthing 22. Bracknell looked likely to get a consolation try but the magnificent Worthing defence held out with the adrenalin of approaching victory.
Raiders had spoilt it for themselves in the first half by conceding penalties just when their attacking momentum seemed to have got going. Second-choice Bracknell fly-half, Ed Yarnton, made them pay with some deep kicks for touch and the Bracknell forwards exerted their threat.
Their line-out prospered unopposed for the first half and they scored their try from a catch and drive resulting from one such Yarnton touch-kick. Worthing also had three fortuitous or heroic moments when lethal, try-scoring wing Nick Shears, operating on the left, was close to breaking clear.
But Worthing soon set about disrupting the Bracknell line-out in the second half and when Yarnton faltered with several more chances to kick for penetrating position, Bracknell had to show other ideas. But in that department it was Worthing who had the richer speed of thought and deed on the move, and who had the greater mobility.
Charlie McGowan capped another mountainous performance with a storming break from midfield but was just unable to motor though full-back David Budge, whose elusive running was a feature of Bracknell's ultimately fruitless final 20 minutes of adventure.
In the final players' huddle, captain Jody Levett thanked his team for their combined efforts over the last four seasons since Worthing lost the same play-off to Bridgwater & Albion in the dying seconds on this same pitch.
More details, quotes and more Malcolm McCluskey pictures in the Herald on Thursday
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