WORTHING Raiders Rugby Club had to settle for runners-up spot in National 2 South after a heartbreaking 55-27 defeat in their title shoot-out at Henley Hawks today (Saturday, May 4).
The hosts clinched the win they needed to leapfrog Raiders in the table in a dramatic final-day victory as they also secured automatic promotion into National 1.
Raiders - who were by no means poor - were well beaten on the day by an excellent side and will now be left to fight it out in the play-offs next weekend with a trip to Stourbridge.
After an early 7-0 led as Sam Hewick crashed over and Joe Govett converted, the visitors trailed 28-10 at half-time with their dominant hosts putting down eight tries and one penalty score during the match.
A penalty try and conversion from Will Robinson pulled the hosts level on 15 minutes, and, with Joe Burns yellow carded, Raiders conceded twice in 10 minutes - as Jonah Holmes and David Manning put down converted tries.
With Raiders back up to a full quota, Govett stroked over a penalty to bring the score back to 21-10 on 31 minutes, but the hosts put down their fourth converted try of the match a minute before half-time as Xavier Andre stretched over on the wing.
An early Govett penalty at the start of the second half pulled three points back for Raiders, but Henley’s Hugo Milesford Scott touched down a fifth try on 49 minutes, shortly followed by another from Andrea.
Rob Smith pulled one back for Raiders on 61 minutes which Govett converted to take the score to 38-20 and with Worthing’s head coach Kieron Dawson bringing himself off the bench, Raiders had a sniff at getting back into it.
But the impressive hosts were always in control and Robinson slotted over a penalty, and another converted try, this time from Richard Briggs, on 72 minutes wrapped it up for Henley as they held a commanding 48-20 lead.
Luke Peters looked like he had given Raiders a consolation with a converted try five minutes from time, but it was the then, the soon-to-be champions that would have the final say as Tom Allen crossed late on and Robinson stroked home the extras.
Another sour note was Alex Nielsen being helped off seconds before the end with a nasty-looking wrist injury.
WORTHING: Leeming, K.Richards, O.Richards, Peters, Nielsen, Hopkinson, Govett, Cleveland, Pointingns, Joe Burns, Stutchbury, Barlow, Redmayne, Hewick, Smith. Subs: Dawson (Pointing 62), Heaver (Stutchbury 51), Smith, Maslen (Leeming 53), Dudley (Hopkinson 73).
Full report in this week’s Worthing Herald.