Game eight and Raiders were on the road for one of the longest away trips of the season to Leicester. Due to Covid interrupting the end of season 2019/20 this was the first time Raiders had played at the Lions’ ground.
Selection saw 16 of last Saturday’s squad on the team sheet again. Tom Adams and Will Scholes were in the starting line up in the pack, Ken Dowding and Rob Cuffe were on the bench and Iago Davies was making his first appearance in the squad, also on the bench.
Leicester Lions have shown themselves to be a very proficient team in the league and the expectation was that they would give Raiders their toughest test so far. On a dry but chilly afternoon and with the playing surface in good condition it was the home side who kicked off to start the game. For the first five or so minutes they maintained possession and kept the pressure on Raiders. By the time Leicester scored a converted try in the sixth minute the visitors had not had any possession to work with. 7-0.
As the half progressed Raiders settled into the game and began to be more competitive around the field. The home side used their forwards in an attempt to make inroads into the Raiders’ defence, but they made limited progress by doing so. Raiders had spells throughout the half where they created chances by linking forward and back play. Unfortunately, they couldn’t turn any of them into points.
The game became very scrappy with neither side able to maintain pressure on the other side due to inaccuracy, errors, and infringements. On a day when it looked as if the game should have been fast and open it was very stop–start. The flow of the game wasn’t helped when each time the ball was kicked off the pitch there was a long wait while the ball was retrieved, or a replacement found.
Towards the end of the half the visitors looked as though they might get on the score sheet as they played with more patience and kept the Leicester team on the back foot. One or two skilful handling moves almost did the trick but, in the end, it was a collective surge from the forwards that resulted in a try for Ken Dowding. Matt McLean converted and as the half came to a close the teams were even on points.
Half time score: Leicester Lions 7 Worthing Raiders 7
At the break the visitors replaced Dan Sargent and Cam Dobinson with Fraser Bruce and Iago Davies. Rhys Morgan moved to scrum half. Raiders kicked off and were quickly on the attack. Having pushed the home side deep in their 22-metre area Harrison Sims burst through a tackle and released the ball for Jon Whittall to romp in under the posts but the referee ruled it out indicating that there had been a knock on in the build-up. A tight call and very significant in such a close game.
The game then slipped back into a rather slower paced, forward based contest and as in the first half became scrappy with too many errors and penalties from both sides. The game being so close it was not surprising that when a penalty was awarded to the home side they decided to go for goal. The kick was successful, and they extended their lead to 10-7. A few minutes later a similar scenario played out only this time the kick was missed.
Rob Cuffe replaced Jon Whittall midway through the half. Raiders were being drawn into a forward battle and this prevented them from playing with the tempo we usually associate with their style. In such a tight game it wasn’t unexpected that at times it was a bad-tempered affair.
The most important score of the match came after some twenty-five minutes of the half. With neither side in control of the ball it was kicked along the ground towards the visitors’ try line and the Leicester player narrowly won the foot race to touch down just short of the dead ball line. The conversion was successful, 17-7. Kieran Leeming was replaced by Charlie Spencer for the final ten minutes.
The visitors played some expansive rugby in this period and created opportunities but sadly nothing came of them. The game ended with Raiders having a scrum deep in Leicester territory, Kemp Price picked up ready to attack but the officials penalised the visitors for a technical infringement in the front row. The home side delightedly kicked the ball off to end the game.
Full time score: Leicester Lions 17 Worthing Raiders 7
This had been a very close encounter throughout and in truth it was the defences of both sides that controlled the way the game was played. Raiders had not been at their best and were unable to maintain the continuity and high pace with which they usually like to play. On the day there was very little between the two teams and the result could have gone either way.
A disappointing result and not a great spectacle of rugby. Raiders look forward to the next game with the squad keen to get back to their winning ways. Raiders drop to second behind Guernsey and host 12th-placed Barnes on Saturday.
Referee: Peter Connor
Try: Ken Dowding
Con: Matt McLean
Team: 1 Tom Adams 2. Henry Birch – Captain 3. Dan Sargent 4. Jack Lee 5. Jack Lake 6. Will Scholes 7. Jon Whittall 8. Kemp Price 9. Cam Dobinson 10. Kieran Leeming 11. Jerome Rudder 12. Harrison Sims 13. Jack Forrest 14. Rhys Morgan 15. Matt McLean. Bench: 16. Ken Dowding 17. Fraser Bruce 18. Rob Cuffe 19. Iago Davies 20. Charlie Spencer