WORTHING Raiders Rugby Club suffered a 33-30 defeat at home to Old Elthamians in their opening National 2 South game of the season this afternoon.
Raiders were relegated from National 1 last season, while Old Elthamians were promoted from National League 3 London & South East.
The visitors grabbed the win in the final play of the match when they drove over from a line-out for Kristian Cook to touch down.
It was a frustrating start for Worthing, who looked to have victory within their grasp when they went 30-23 in front with 15 minutes to go with their fourth try of the match. However, errors in the closing stages saw the visitors take full advantage.
Raiders player-manager Matt Farnes said: “It’s really frustrating. We scored a good try to go seven points up but we dropped a couple of restarts and gave away a couple of penalties, which let them have a chance and they took it.
“It’s the first game of the season and we’ve lost a game. It’s not an ideal way to start but there’s 29 other games to go. There’s plenty of time, things to work on and some players to come in as well.”
Worthing made the perfect start when Alex Nielsen set up debutant Harry Forrest to touch down inside a minute. Jack Metters was off target with the conversion and then kicked a long-range penalty just wide on 13 minutes.
Old Elthamians’ Renford Bennett burst from his own half and shrugged off two challenges to touch down the visitors’ first try on 15 minutes and Thomas White’s conversion made the score 7-5.
Metters was again just off target with a long-distance penalty on 23 minutes, before White kicked a penalty just wide at the other end on 27 minutes.
White nailed a penalty two minutes later to put the visitors 10-5 ahead but Raiders went back ahead on 31 minutes.
Worthing worked the ball from right to left for Nielsen to kick it forward and Forrest raced through to touch down. Metters converted to put Worthing 12-10 ahead.
White kicked over a penalty from the halfway line with the closing action of the half to give Old Elthamians a 13-12 half-time lead.
The visitors increased their lead with a penalty from White three minutes into the second half but Raiders responded with a penalty of their own from Metters two minutes later.
Bennett powered over for his second try on 49 minutes and White’s conversion gave Old Elthamians a 23-15 advantage.
Raiders closed the deficit to a point when Finlay Coxon-Smith burst between two players and offloaded to Nielsen to race through to go over. Metters’ conversion made the score 23-22.
Old Elthamians had Lee Nelmes sinbinned on 62 minutes and Raiders made the extra man count when Matt McLean kicked over a penalty.
With the visitors still a man down, Worthing increased their lead on 65 minutes. Jon Whittall skipped through after Raiders drove forward from a line-out but McLean’s conversion went just wide.
Old Elthamians’ Paul Humphries sliced a penalty wide on 68 minutes but was successful three minutes later to close the gap to 30-26.
The visitors put Raiders under pressure in the closing stages and grabbed the win in the final minute when Cook touched down after Old Elthamians drove forward from a line-out.
RAIDERS: Forrest, Coxon-Smith, Leeming, McLean, Nielsen, Metters, Costigan; Storer, Piper, Sargent, Gaynor, McGowan, Smith, Hewick, Perkins. Subs: Whittall, South, Ibuanokpe, Dudley, Marchant.