Canterbury tale is not a winning one for Worthing Raiders

Worthing Raiders’ first away fixture was played on a Canterbury pitch in excellent condition for open rugby – but they ended on the losing side, 29-24 the final score.

Thursday, 23rd September 2021, 2:30 pm
Canterbury v Worthing Raiders action / Picture: Colin Coulson

There were changes from the side that played against Bury St Edmunds. Nathan Jibulu started in the back row, Kieran Leeming returned to fly half, Matt McLean moved to the wing and Tom Adams, Jon Whittall and Will Beer were added to the bench.

In the first half Raiders played up the slope.

The home side had all the possession in the opening minutes and the visitors were kept in their own half. Two early penalties were awarded to Canterbury, but both attempts at the posts failed.

Canterbury v Worthing Raiders action / Picture: Colin Coulson

Each time Raiders kicked out of defence or lost possession higher up the field the home side used the slope and wind and kicked deep towards the corners.

When Raiders had the ball they used it well, backs and forwards linking well, but this often resulted in the ball being turned over and the home side kicking it back into Raiders’ territory.

Canterbury scored the first try after 17 minutes, converted to give them a 7-0 lead.

Raiders were back in the game when a clearance kick from the home side failed to make touch. Matt McLean, Connor Slevin and Jack Forrest combined to take the ball into the home side’s 22m area. Will Scholes carried to set up the next ruck then the ball was moved wide to Nathan Jibulu who barged through to score a well-constructed try. The gap was reduced to 7-5.

Canterbury scored a second try after 23 minutes from good handling but weak defence. The lead was 12-5.

Raiders had a good period of possession deep in Canterbury territory. After a couple of catch and drives by the visitors the home side cleared their line but the ball was still in play with Connor Slevin starting a new attack. The ball ended up in Matt McLean’s hands on the left wing, he was held up ten metres from the try line but offloaded neatly to Jerome Rudder who scored in the corner. The lead was reduced to 12-10.

Canterbury ended the half by scoring a converted try after charging down a clearance kick and romping in under the posts for a 19-10 lead.

With no changes made at half time it was Raiders who kicked off, now playing down the slope. After a few minutes of quality possession, they were getting closer to the home side’s try line. Rhys Litterick was replaced by Will Hobson in the front row and Will Scholes was replaced by Jon Whittall.

The game was being played deep in Canterbury’s 22m area. Raiders had used the catch and drive from the lineout on two occasions but hadn’t quite got over the line. Several attempts were made at close quarters by the forwards but still no luck. Eventually, the home side gave away another penalty, Raiders kicked to the corner and from the lineout a well-executed catch and drive resulted in captain Henry Birch diving over to score after six minutes of the half. With McLean’s conversion the home side had only a two-point lead at 19-17.

The next score went to the hosts and was as a result of some very careless play by the visitors.

From the restart Raiders tried to run out of their 22m area instead of using the wind and slope to kick the ball back into Canterbury territory. Raiders were punished by giving away a penalty which the home side kicked into the corner for a lineout.

Within another minute they had scored a converted try from this situation and extended their lead to 26-17.

Raiders spent most of the half deep in Canterbury territory but couldn’t make the vital breakthrough.

Canterbury made a rare visit into Raiders’ territory and came away with three points from a penalty. 29-17

With ten minutes left to play the home side had a 12-point lead. Raiders were trying to play with pace in all areas of the field, stretching the defence from touchline to touchline. Twice they crossed the line to score tries but on both occasions the referee ruled them out.

Raiders continued to play with temper whilst the home side tried to slow the game down whenever they could.

When it looked like Raiders would get nothing out of the game, replacement scrum half Cam Dobinson dived over next to the posts to score a bonus point try and with Matt’s conversion the gap was closed to five points and thus the visitors earned two bonus points in defeat, the final score 29-24.

This was a frustrating game for the visitors as they clearly could and should have taken the victory if they had been a little more clinical in their finishing.

After the first three National two south games of the season, Raiders have 12 points and sit in fourth place.