After last week’s successful trip to Clifton, Raiders returned to the Rugby Park this week to play Esher.
Another difficult match against opponents that have played at a higher level for many years. At present they sit in fourth position in the league.
This week Scott Barlow returned to the second row after injury, releasing skipper Liam Perkins to take up his normal position at no 8. Kiba Richards returned to his old position as centre. Harry Forrest also returned to the right wing. Jon Whittall joined the squad on the bench. Grant Gatford was ruled out with a hamstring injury.
For the third week running the weather forecast for the day was awful. In fact, a weather warning was in place for torrential rain. Weather forecasts are not always correct but this one produced the rain as predicted. From lunchtime and throughout the match the rain fell remorselessly. Yet again a running spectacle was not envisaged but over three hundred faithful Raiders’ fans were present to witness what turned out to be a very skilful performance from both teams.
Esher kicked off defending the southern end of the ground and despite a positive start from the home side it was the visitors who scored first with a penalty kick after six minutes, 0-3.
After ten minutes Raiders were awarded a penalty in midfield and Henry Anscombe put the kick into touch deep in Esher territory. The forwards executed a controlled catch and drive from the lineout and when the maul was stopped the ball was moved to the blindside to John Dawe who pierced the defence to score wide on the left. Matt McLean converted to give Raiders the lead 7-3.
Esher looked dangerous whenever they could get a catch and drive going and so it was little surprise when they rumbled over to score their first try, which when converted gave them the lead at 7-10.
Despite the terrible conditions both sides managed to use the ball effectively and create good scoring opportunities.
After twenty minutes a passage of possession for Raiders started from a lineout forty metres from the Esher try line. Several phases were completed before John Dawe made a typical run that saw him breach the visitors’ defence, brushing aside attempted tackles, he off-loaded to Jack Forrest who threw a long pass out to Matt McLean on the right wing and he was able to complete an outstanding few minutes of rugby with a try in the corner. Adding the extras himself the home side retook the lead at 14-10.
Half time score: Worthing Raiders 14 Esher 10
Raiders restarted the game after the break and were quickly on the attack deep in Esher territory.
As in the previous two weeks there was no respite from the heavy rain. The pitch started to cut up and make it even more difficult to control the ball. Esher were finding it difficult to get into Raiders’ territory and whenever they did it was only fleetingly as the home side swept straight back again.
After eleven minutes the visitors had a scrum near their own line after Raiders had knocked on, it looked like they would relieve the pressure, but they were penalised when the scrum collapsed, and Matt McLean kicked the penalty to extend Raiders’ lead to 17-10.
The home side continued to have the territorial advantage and the pressure was constantly being put on the visitors’ defence. After fifteen minutes a penalty was awarded to Raiders when Esher were caught offside at a scrum in front of the posts. Matt McLean again accepted the chance to extend the lead to 20-10 with a simple penalty kick.
Esher were never out of the game and after a further five minutes they scored another try with a catch and drive from a lineout five metres out. The conversion was missed but the lead had been reduced to five points, 20-15.
Conditions underfoot continued to deteriorate, and the rain made life miserable for everyone playing and watching.
With eight minutes remaining Raiders again had a kickable penalty and Matt McLean took it on but with conditions under foot so difficult his effort went narrowly wide.
As the minutes ticked away Raiders again moved into the Esher twenty-two metre area and with great discipline and skill, they went through an amazing thirty-eight phases until only inches short of the line, a penalty was awarded to the visitors and they cleared their lines.
Esher tried hard to overcome the tenacious Raiders’ defence but to no avail. When the whistle went for full time the home side had earned an excellent win in the most awful conditions.
One of the most pleasing aspects of the game was the way Raiders controlled many areas of the game in conditions that don’t suit their traditional open running style, something they have not been good at in the past.
The effort, attitude and eventually the result was greatly appreciated by the home crowd who yet again gave great audible support to the team. Much appreciated.
Congratulations to Matt McLean who was playing his 251st National League game for Raiders, a great achievement.
Full time score: Worthing Raiders 20 Esher 15
Referee: Andrew MacNeaney
B&W Man of the Match: Rhys Litterick
Scorers: Tries: Dawe, McLean Con: McLean x 2 Pen: McLean x2 Team: 1. Henry Birch 2. Elliott Luke (Gibson 61 min) 3. Rhys Litterick 4. Scott Barlow 5. Jack Lake 6. Freddie Holmes (Whittall 61 min)7. John Dawe 8. Liam Perkins – Captain 9. Calum Waters 10. Henry Anscombe 11. Curtis Barnes 25. Kiba Richards 13. Jack Forrest 14. Harry Forrest 15. Matt McLean. Bench 16. Jordan Gibson 17. Sam Cook 18. Ryan Maguire 19. Jon Whittall 20. Tom Gwyther