Clifton suspense: Worthing Raiders settle for share of points

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The spoils were shared 31-31 at the end of a well fought game between Clifton and Worthing Raiders, two well-matched sides, both teams earning three points to add to their National two south league totals.

It was a shame this will probably be the last meeting between these clubs due to the restructuring of the leagues.

The result leaves Raiders fourth and now 12 points behind leaders Esher with only three games left.

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Raiders were intent on getting back to winning ways as Ken Dowding, Jack Lake, Will Beer and Tom Gwyther all returned to replace Rhys Morgan, Cassius Cleaves, Rob Smith and Josh Tusler.

Worthing Raiders in action at Clifton in their 31-31 draw / Picture: Andy WalesWorthing Raiders in action at Clifton in their 31-31 draw / Picture: Andy Wales
Worthing Raiders in action at Clifton in their 31-31 draw / Picture: Andy Wales

In clear, sunny conditions on a perfect pitch for running rugby Raiders kicked off with the wind at their backs.

With six minutes played the visitors were awarded a penalty in midfield. Kieran Leeming kicked towards the corner and the line-out that ensued was just inside the 22m area.

The catch and drive was executed perfectly and marched the Clifton forwards relentlessly back towards their own try line until Dan Sargent touched down. The try was unconverted.

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The play was mainly in Clifton’s territory during the first quarter with the visitors moving the point of attack across the full width of the pitch. After ten minutes the visitors again kicked a penalty from midfield deep into the home side’s 22m area.

The catch and drive from the line-out moved ever closer to the try line until Cam Dobinson popped a neat pass to Leeming who took on the defence and forced his way over under the posts. Matt McLean added the extras, 0-12.

Raiders continued to dominate play and a great break by skipper Kemp Price almost led to another score.

It didn’t take long for the visitors to notch their third try. Dobinson made a defence-splitting break after good build up play and Sargent was on hand to take the pass and burst through several tackles to score his second try. McLean converted and the lead stretched to 0-19.

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Clifton scored their first try after good phase and closed the gap to 7-19.

McLean received a high kick and burst through the on-rushing Clifton chasers to eventually earn the visitors a scrum deep in the 22.

As the scrum broke up the referee awarded a penalty to Clifton and sent Dowding to the sin bin for ten minutes. With the man advantage the home side scored another converted try making the score 14-19.

Raiders scored again five minutes before half-time. After the visitors had created a good chance, they were held up over the line. The resulting goal line drop out gave the ball back to the visitors well inside the Clifton half. Curtis Barnes sprinted down the left aand chipped ahead resulting in Liam Perkins collecting the ball and romping in to score the bonus point try. McLean converted to make it 14-26.

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A good first half for Raiders who took a 12-point lead into the break.

Clifton restarted after the interval and within two minutes had scored an unconverted try to close the gap to 19-26.

Raiders were making good use of the bench, regularly introducing fresh legs.

During the next 25 minutes there was no further scoring. However, the home side was in the ascendency.

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Raiders defended really well to repel many powerful attacks from the big Clifton forwards.

At one point Will Scholes intercepted the ball on his own 22 and he set off for the Clifton line, but was brought back for an earlier offside decision against the visitors.

Raiders were guilty of giving away penalties which allowed Clifton to dominate field position. Eventually they punctured the visitors’ defence and scored their bonus point try. The conversion levelled the scores at 26-26.

From the restart Clifton knocked on and Raiders had the put in at the scrum. The scrum produced a penalty to the visitors and Leeming found touch on the Clifton 22m line. From the line-out Raiders’ forwards drove towards the try line and Sargent scored his third try of the day. With the conversion missed the visitors led 26-31 with a few minutes left.

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The scoring wasn’t over yet and Clifton hit back quickly to level the scores at 31-31 with an unconverted try.

At this point no-one really knew how much time was left, 40 minutes had passed by on the running clock, so now it was just the time the referee was adding on for stoppages.

The period lasted more than six minutes and both teams were playing at a frantic pace in the search for the winning score, but neither side could capitalise.

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