WORTHING Raiders Rugby Club inflicted a first defeat of the season on National 2 South leaders Richmond on Saturday in a pulsating game at Roundstone Lane.
Second-placed Raiders won 21-17 in front of a 1,300-strong crowd to bounce back from their defeat at Hartpury College the previous week.
Worthing appeared to be up against it before kick-off with Ben Dudley, Charlie McGowan, Finlay Coxon-Smith and James Arthur all ruled out through injury and Darren Clayton unavailable, which meant Raiders head coach, former Ireland international, Kieron Dawson, made his first start of the season.
Things did not start well for Raiders as Richmond, who had secured the four-try bonus point in all 10 of their victories before the game, took just two minutes to touch down when Tom Chesters went over in the corner.
Gareth Wynne put the conversion wide but he nailed a penalty on 11 minutes to give Richmond an 8-0 lead.
Quick-thinking and opportunistic play from Raiders saw them take the initiative for the rest of the half.
Joe Govett went over after he feigned a pass, kicked the ball forward and raced through to touch down, with Matt McLean successful with the conversion from the touchline.
Toby Henry made it 11-7 to Richmond with a drop goal on 29 minutes but Raiders were ahead within a minute after some excellent quick-thinking by Alex Nielsen. After the drop goal, he immediately retrieved the ball, took a swift kick-off up the middle from the halfway line and, after he got held up, passed to Kiba Richards, who touched down, with McLean adding the extras.
Within three minutes, another excellent kick from Govett allowed McLean to go over and he converted his own try to make it 21-11.
Two penalties from Henry closed the half to make it 21-17 at the break.
The second half was an absorbing affair, even though no points were scored. Raiders had Ollie Luke sinbinned early in the half and, during their spell down to 14 men, an excellent tackle from Dawson prevented a Richmond try.
The final 10 minutes of normal time and eight minutes of added time were spent in Raiders’ 22 as both teams battled it out in the scrums, while both sets of supporters loudly cheered on their respective sides as Raiders bravely tried to keep Richmond from touching down a match-winning try.
Raiders team manager David Hinchliffe, who afterwards called the fans a 16th man, urged the Worthing faithful to make as much noise as possible and, when the final whistle was blown, after Luke kicked the ball into touch, a loud roar – of joy and relief – erupted around the ground.
Lots of pictures and more reaction in this week’s Worthing Herald.