IT WAS a case of narrow margins yet again for Worthing Raiders Rugby Club this afternoon as they suffered a 25-19 defeat at home to Esher.
The home side threw away a 19-10 lead in the second half of the National 1 clash at Roundstone Lane as a strong Esher side rallied to cap a resilient fight back.
Raiders were without Simon Gaynor, who was a late withdrawal with a recurrence of a thigh injury, and Will Stutchbury came into the starting line-up.
Worthing looked certain to go ahead on seven minutes as Liam Perkins picked up and raced clean through, but Rob Shaw got back for the visitors to somehow pull him down on the 22.
The hosts did take the lead on 11 minutes as Joe Govett picked up on the far side and broke down the wing, and, with Esher’s full-back Luke Daniels getting back to cover, a reserve pass set Alex Nielsen away, who dived over in the corner.
Daniels attempted to get Esher on the board with a long-range penalty attempt which dropped just to the left of the posts, but the league’s top scorer did get his side on the scoreboard on 22 minutes, slotting over a penalty from close range after an offside infringement.
Daniels passed up the opportunity to put the visitors ahead on 26 minutes as his penalty went wide of the right-hand post after Raiders were penalised for hands in the ruck.
Nielsen then got back to put in a try-saving tackle on 28 minutes, crashing Anders Mogensen into touch as he attempted to latch onto a chipped pass.
Despite some resolute work, Worthing’s defence finally told on 34 minutes as Esher switched it right and Andrew Wright wriggled over. Daniels put over a difficult looking conversion to give his side a 10-5 lead.
A breathtaking bit of rugby was rightly rewarded on 37 minutes. Initiated by Kieran Leeming’s brilliant flicked pass inside, the forwards raced on and eventually found Hewick, who raced home under the posts.
Govett duly obliged with the extras to give the home side a narrow 12-10 lead, which they carried into the break.
In the second half, Raiders made an early breakthrough as Dan Sargent went on a surging run from the right, but was held up just short of the line and eventually Pete Cleveland grounded the ball after some desperate defending.
Another Govett conversion gave the hosts a much-welcomed 19-10 cushion.
Esher reduced the home side’s lead out of nothing on 59 minutes as they capitalised on a Kiba Richards mistake and Ashley Smith went over in the corner although Daniels kick fell short.
The hosts grabbed the ascendency and kicked for touch following a penalty, and, from the resulting line-out David Millard broke away and dived over, although Daniels missed a simple kick for the extras.
Things got worse for Raiders they were forced to see out the last eight minutes with 14 men as Kiba Richards was yellow carded for a deliberate knock-on as he intercepted a pass out wide.
That extra man counted moments later as Esher quickly moved the ball wide and Wright strolled over for his second try of the afternoon on 77 minutes, although another dragged kick from Daniels kept Raiders in touching distance with the score on 25-19.
Raiders rallied and a promising move in the closing stages was broken down as Kieran Leeming’s pass was brilliantly intercepted by Stewart Maquire.
The game ended bizarrely as David Millard was yellow-carded for obstruction following a quickly-taken Raiders penalty , but after consulting with his touch judge, referee Phillip Davies reversed the penalty in Esher’s favour and they kicked into touch to close the match.
WORTHING: Greenwood, Coxon-Smith, K.Richards, Dudley, Nielsen, Leeming, Govett, Cleveland, Miles, Sargent, Stutchbury, Barlow, Chisholm, Hewick, Perkins. Subs: Smith, Loosmore (Coxon-Smith, Chisholm 76), Redmayne, O’Sullivan (Sargent, Hewick 63), , Sewell (Stutchbury 57).