Barnes beaten - but it's a close call as Worthing Raiders return to top

Worthing Raiders triumphed 34-32 at home to Barnes in a high-scoring, entertaining game with wonderful support from a large crowd.

Charlie Spencer makes headway for Worthing Raiders against Barnes / Picture: Stephen Goodger
Charlie Spencer makes headway for Worthing Raiders against Barnes / Picture: Stephen Goodger

That's another five points earned in National two south and Jordan Turner-Hall's men go back into top spot..

Game nine of the season saw Barnes make the relatively short journey from London to Roundstone Lane. Despite the gap in the league table between the two sides, Barnes are always difficult opponents, and a close encounter was expected.

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Raiders’ selection had been a little more difficult this week due to several injuries. However, 16 of last week’s squad that travelled to Leicester Lions were involved again this week. Added to the squad were Makeen Alikhan, Nathan Jibulu and Rhys Litterick returning after unavailability and Luke Talbot who was making his debut for Raiders.

The pitch was in excellent condition and the weather was warm and sunny, so a fast, open game was expected by the crowd of over 460.

Raiders kicked off attacking the southern end of the ground. The home side settled first and from a lineout close to the visitors’ try line they successfully implemented a catch and drive which resulted in Henry Birch touching down for the first score of the afternoon with only four minutes played. Matt McLean converted to give Raiders the early lead 7-0.

After this good start by the home side, Barnes began to show their potential and when their attack was held up a few metres from the Raiders’ try line they were awarded a penalty. Jack Forrest received a yellow card, and the visitors kicked the penalty to close the gap to 7-3 after eleven minutes. At this stage Barnes were playing well and were rewarded with a converted try after eighteen minutes. Thus, turning a deficit into a lead at 7-10.

It wasn’t looking good for the home side with the lineout not functioning as smoothly as usual and a high penalty count against them. Barnes took advantage and scored a second converted try from close quarters. The lead extending to 7-17 after thirty minutes.

The home side played some good rugby but couldn’t maintain possession long enough to create scoring chances. eventually after winning quality possession from a lineout in the visitors’ half the ball was moved through several phases across the field. The ball was then switched back towards the right side of the pitch and Harrison Sims made a clean break through the defence and sprinted in to score an invaluable try at this point in the game. Matt McLean converted, and the lead was reduced to three points, 14-17.

Tom Adams and Jack Lake replaced Ken Dowding and Will Scholes with a few minutes of the half to play. Just on half time Barnes kicked a penalty to leave the home side trailing by six points. Half time score: Worthing Raiders 14 Barnes 20

During the break the home side made two more changes, Nathan Jibulu and Cam Dobinson replaced Henry Birch and Rhys Morgan. Barnes kicked off to start the second half. Raiders were now attacking the northern end of the ground. Neither side was dominant although the home side came close to scoring after some patient, effective build up. However, a penalty awarded to Barnes allowed them to relieve the pressure and the score remained the same.

Will Scholes returned to the game after fifty minutes, replacing Jack Lee. Barnes had the chance to extend their lead with a penalty attempt, but it sailed wide to the relief of the home side and the crowd. Raiders were finding it difficult to mount sustained attacks, and Barnes looked dangerous with ball in hand. Both sides used long, high kicks to gain territory in the hope they might force errors but on the contrary both sides fielded the high ball well and either kicked it back or set up counter attacks.

After nearly fifteen minutes of the half no further score had been achieved by either side until Barnes were caught offside and Matt McLean kicked the penalty to reduce the gap to three points at 17-20. It didn’t take Barnes long to extend their lead to ten points when a long pass in centre field was intercepted and they scored another converted try, 17-27.

With twenty minutes to play it didn’t look to promising for the home team. At this point Iago Davies replaced Charlie Spencer and Ken Dowding returned to replace Tom Adams. Matt McLean was kicking well out of hand and from a penalty he put the ball in to touch five metres from the Barnes’ try line. The ball was successfully caught and driven towards the line, Nathan Jibulu then broke free and dived over to score an unconverted try, 22-27.

Just when it looked like Raiders were right back in the game the visitors broke away to score another unconverted try extending their lead to ten points at 22-32. With only thirteen minutes left in the match it was difficult to see how Raiders were going to get the win.

At last, it seemed the home side really got their act together and they started to produce penetrating attacks from all areas of the pitch. The home crowd’s spirits were lifted when Raiders again used the driving maul from a lineout close to the Barnes’ try line. As they were about to cross the line to touch down the visitors collapsed the maul, and the referee had no option than to award a penalty try to Raiders. With nine minutes to play the lead for the visitors was again reduced to three points, 29-32. The game could still go either way.

Luke Talbot was replaced by Rhys Morgan with six minutes to play. For the first time in the game Raiders looked as though they could score from anywhere. From a scrum inside their own twenty-two metre area, Cam Dobinson broke up the blindside, at the break down Raiders earned a penalty and the pace was maintained with a quick tap.

The move had taken play deep into Barnes territory, their defence being severely tested. A scrum ensued with the put in to the home side, Barnes were then penalised at the scrum and Raiders again took a quick tap resulting in Ken Dowding touching down for their fifth and most important try of the game. With the conversion missed Raiders had the lead for the first time since the nineteenth minute of the game, 34-32.

The referee indicated to both sides there was time for the restart but that would be the final play. The crowd nervously watched as the home side collected the restart, set a ruck and then safely kicked the ball into touch to end the game.

Referee: Matthew Sharpe

Proto Restaurant Group Man of the Match: Rhys Litterick

Attendance: 461


Try: Birch, Sims, Jibulu, Penalty, Dowding

Con: McLean x 2

Pen: McLean x 1

Raiders: Ken Dowding 2. Henry Birch – Captain 3. Rhys Litterick 4. Jack Lee 5. Will Scholes 6. Jon Whittall 7. Kareen Alikhan 8. Kemp Price 9. Rhys Morgan 10. Matt McLean 11. Jerome Rudder 12. Harrison Sims 13. Jack Forrest 14. Charlie Spencer 15. Luke Talbot. Bench - 16. Nathan Jibulu 17. Tom Adams 18. Jack Lake 19. Cam Dobinson 20. Iago Davies