Raiders beat Bournemouth in opener

WORTHING Raiders Rugby Club made a dominant start to the season on Saturday with a 45-14 victory over Bournemouth at Roundstone Lane.

Bournemouth had started their campaign with a 32-17 win over Canterbury the previous week after both sides had been promoted from National 3 South last season.

Worthing, meanwhile, had finished third in National 2 South last season and are making no secret of the fact that they are looking for a top-two finish.

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The gulf in class showed in the first half and Raiders got off to the perfect start in front of a 800-strong crowd when Alex Nielsen touched down the opening try after just 72 seconds. Ben Dudley passed him the ball inside Raiders’ half and he burst through to touch down.

Matt McLean was off target with the conversion, before Bournemouth’s Ben Stevenson, who kicked 22 points in his side’s win over Canterbury, missed a fairly straight forward penalty attempt on one of the rare occasions that the visitors made it into Raiders’ half in the opening period.

Jack Maslen then touched down twice in quick succession when Bournemouth were a man down owing to Timothy Collier’s yellow card. The second was after a flowing move involving Matt Miles and Sam Hewick, with McLean converting one of them as Worthing led 17-0 after 24 minutes.

Nielsen sealed the four-try bonus point by half-time with a run down the left after Rob Smith’s break and McLean added the extras.

Raiders were camped in Bournemouth’s half at the beginning of the second period and the pressure told when Charlie McGowan powered over, with McLean again converting.

Debutant Jordan Burns, on loan from Harlequins, got a try on 63 minutes after a flowing passing move for Raiders’ sixth touch down, with McLean again kicking the extra two points to make it 38-0.

Bournemouth kept going, however, and got converted tries back on 67 and 72 minutes through John Peart and Richard Carrell as Stevenson added the extras.

Worthing had the final say, though, as Maslen broke forward looking to complete his hat-trick but got held up and passed to the supporting Ollie Luke, who touched down and McLean again kicked the conversion.

Raiders head coach Kieron Dawson said: “The great thing about it was that although we played well and scored some great tries, we came off disappointed after letting them score 14 points.

“Their coaches said to me after the game that they hadn’t experienced the speed of game like that before. We found it a bit more difficult in the second half when they changed their game but we’d realised early that we could hurt them with our speed and width.

“Sam Hewick was outstanding today. His support play was very good and he reminded me of an old style No 7, which is pleasing for an old No 7 like myself. The debutants also played well and it was great to see Rob Smith back after he missed most of pre-season with a broken nose.”

Raiders are at Barking on Saturday and Dawson said: “We’ve got a squad of 42 players, so I’m going to have a headache most weekends as I can only make 15 players happy. We’ve got Jamie Redmayne, who was our most consistent player last season, and Scott Barlow back for Saturday as well.

“But we’ve built a great squad spirit in pre-season and the A team got a big win today as well, so the club is buzzing at the moment.”

WORTHING: McLean, Maslen, Richards, Clayton, Nielsen, Dudley, Toone; Cleveland, Miles, Joe Burns, Stutchbury, McGowan, Arthur, Hewick, Smith. Subs: Jordan Burns (Toone 46), Pointing, McIntyre (Cleveland, Joe Burns 53), Heaver, Luke (McGowan, Dudley 65).