Breath-taking first half sets up Worthing Raiders to beat Tonbridge Juddians

Worthing Raiders beat Tonbridge Juddians 46-34 – and it was not only a great win for Raiders but an outstanding advert for National two league rugby.
Worthing Raiders had seven tries to celebrate against Tonbridge | Picture by Stephen Goodger - see more pictures in the link in the articleWorthing Raiders had seven tries to celebrate against Tonbridge | Picture by Stephen Goodger - see more pictures in the link in the article
Worthing Raiders had seven tries to celebrate against Tonbridge | Picture by Stephen Goodger - see more pictures in the link in the article

Both sides contributed to a good afternoon’s entertainment although the home side always looked to just about be in control of the game. This win moves Raiders up to fifth in the league with 38 points.

Man of the match could have been any of the Raiders’ team but in the end went to Harrison Sims for his all-round performance in attack and defence.

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Having come from National One at the end of last season Tonbridge Juddians have been demonstrating what a good side they are having beaten league leaders Blackheath in their previous match.

Selection this week showed seven Raiders changes from the side that had played and won at North Walsham in the previous game.

Returning to the squad were Frank Taggart, Jack Lake, Tom Hatch, Fraser Bruce, Alex Davies with Connor Slevin playing his first game of the season and Harry Browne making his debut.

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After another week when the weather had been incredibly wet, Saturday was dry and the pitch in excellent condition for an open game of rugby.

With another good crowd of nearly 500, Raiders kicked off attacking the northern end of the ground. The kick went long and the visitors caught cleanly and kicked the ball into touch. From the lineout the home side immediately showed their intent and spread the ball across the backs towards the left wing. When the ball reached Curtis Barnes, he scythed his way through the defence to touch down for Raiders’ first try of the game. Matt McLean added the extras and after only one minute of play the home side had a 7-0 lead.

After seven minutes Tom Bowen was yellow carded for a deliberate knock on and TJs took the opportunity to take a shot at goal and close the gap to 7-3.

With only ten minutes played Rob Ure had to leave the field with an injury and Harry Browne came on to make his debut. The next points came from a Matt McLean penalty to stretch the home side’s lead to 10-3.

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Three minutes later an expansive move from Raiders with several off loads under pressure resulted in Curtis Barnes scoring his second try of the afternoon. The conversion was unsuccessful but with 13 minutes played the home side had a 15-3 lead.

The visitors then demonstrated why they are a side to be feared when they hit back with an unconverted try to close the gap to 15-8. With a quarter of the game gone Matt McLean put an excellent ‘50-22’ kick into touch giving Raiders a line out in the visitors’ twenty-two.

From the lineout the home side had several drives towards the TJs’ try line through the forwards. Having sucked the visitors’ defence into a very narrow formation a long pass by Connor Slevin out to Tom Bowen on the wing resulted in an easy run in for the home side’s third try. With the conversion from Matt McLean the lead extended to 22-8 after twenty-five minutes.

Raiders continued to play expansive 15-man rugby and constantly stretched the visitors’ defence.

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With 32 minutes played Raiders scored the fourth and bonus point try. After some outstanding interplay between backs and forwards the ball eventually reached Tom Bowen wide on the right. Once in Tom’s hands his blistering acceleration and changes of direction saw him burst through several attempted tackles before he touched down for his second try and although the conversion was missed the lead extended to 27-8.

As the half was nearing the end the visitors were having a good spell of possession and were attacking deep in Raiders’ territory. An excellent read in defence saw Tom Bowen make a great tackle to break down the TJ attack. Connor Slevin then made a forty metre break out of defence, Zach Carr continued the move and when stopped a few metres from the line Will Rigelsford picked up and darted in for Raiders’ fifth try of the half. Matt McLean converted and the home side had the luxury of a 34-8 lead.

With moments left in the half a break by Harrison Sims almost produced another try and then a promising move down the left wing saw Curtis Barnes forced into touch, at which point the referee blew for half time. Five tries and some outstanding fifteen-man rugby from Raiders, possibly their best forty minutes performance of the season so far. Half time score: Worthing Raiders 34 Tonbridge Juddians 8

Tonbridge Juddians kicked off to restart the game now defending the northern end of the ground. The visitors had first use of the ball and looked threatening until the ball was turned over in a tackle near the touchline. Matt McLean picked up and with, it seemed no room to attack up the touchline, he drew the defender and with inches to spare put the ball in Curtis Barnes’ hands who streaked away to score from sixty metres. Although the conversion failed with only three minutes of the half played the Raiders’ lead was now 39-8.

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TJ are a quality outfit and it was no surprise that over the next ten minutes they raised their game and scored two tries, one of which was converted. The score now 39-20. The comfortable lead for the home side looked a little vulnerable. Raiders used their bench throughout the second half using all of the replacements.

With fifteen minutes played TJ scored a converted try to close the gap further to 39-27. The pace and quality from both sides was quite outstanding and at this point the nerves of the home supporters were definitely being tested.

After this early scoring spree, four tries in fifteen minutes, the next twenty minutes produced no more scores but plenty of exciting defence testing rugby.

With 36 minutes played Harrison Sims made one of his trademark breaks in the centre which put the home side on the attack deep in the visitors’ half. TJ then conceded a penalty from which Alex Davies kicked the ball into touch fifteen metres from the visitors’ try line. Raiders used the catch and drive in an attempt to bring about their seventh try of the afternoon but the defence held solid. At this point Alex Davies at scrum half spotted Harrison Sims making a great angled run, his sympathetic pass saw Harrison split the defence without a hand being laid upon him and he touched down with Matt McLean adding the extras to bring the home sides’ lead to 46-27.

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With three minutes left in the game TJ continued to throw everything into the attack and eventually scored their fifth try of the match which when converted brought the score to 46-34.

Referee: Simon Waite

Attendance: 465

Scorers: Tries: Barnes (3), Bowen (2), Rigelsford, Sims. Con: McLean (4). Pen: McLean

Raiders: Jackson Clark 2. Elliott Luke 3. Dan Sargent 4. Jack Lake 5. Frank Taggart 6. Liam Perkins – Captain 7. Rob Ure 8. Zach Carr 9. Will Rigelsford 10. Connor Slevin 11. Curtis Barnes 12. Harrison Sims 13. Jack Forrest 14. Tom Bowen 15. Matt McLean. Bench: 16. Tom Hatch 17. Ethan Clarke 19. Fraser Bruce 24. Harry Browne 22. Alex Davies

Man of the Match: Harrison Sims presented by John Billings of Carpenter Box, match sponsors.

Raiders visit Westcliff in Essex this weekend.

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