LATE drama saw Worthing Raiders Rugby Club snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat on Saturday with two tries in the final two minutes to turn the game on its head.
Raiders were losing the National 2 South clash 16-12 with less than two minutes left on the clock, but quick tries from Sam Hewick and replacement Rob Smith, the latter converted by Matt McLean with the last kick of the game, sealed a 24-16 victory and sparked wild celebrations at Roundstone Lane.
Raiders were leading 12-3 at the break, thanks to tries from Alex Nielsen and Matt Miles, along with a McLean conversion.
But the visitors struck back after the break as James Lightfoot-Brown touched down and Kieron Lewitt converted and then kicked two penalties to put them ahead, before the late drama.
Having dominated the first half, when the final pass prevented Raiders from pulling clear, they were left to hope for a salvation after being camped on the visitors’ line for the final five minutes.
Line-outs and rolling mauls saw the home side edge closer and closer, and with Launceston down to 14 men after Michael Rawlings was sinbinned for an infringement, the pressure told as Hewick went over under a pile of bodies in the 78th minute, and, with McLean missing the conversion, Raiders led 17-16 with seconds left.
With everyone in the ground praying they could hold strong, they went one better. Kiba Richards found a gap and raced forward and the ball found Smith, who crossed under the posts, to put a rather unrealistic gloss on the scoreline and secure a bonus-point win.
And, with second-placed Old Abanians beating leaders Richmond, 20-17, it was a late surge that may prove very crucial as the league summit tightens once more.
Raiders head coach Kieron Dawson admitted he did think his side had maybe left it too late, and said: “You always question whether it is going to be your day, but we stuck at it and came through.
“We showed great spirit, which was fantastic as we could have given up, but it would have been a travesty had we lost that game after the way we played in the first half.
“It was frustrating they got so close as we should have been out of sight at half-time.
“We’ll keep pushing it to play the way we want to, and we’re almost there. We just need to learn we don’t need to score in the first phase every time, as we want to score every time we have the ball.”