Tonbridge too strong for Worthing Raiders – but point in defeat could be vital

Tonbridge Juddians beat Worthing Raiders 61-31 in National two east – and in doing so, looked like a top-four side and thoroughly deserved the victory, scoring nine tries to the visitors. five.
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But Raiders did what they had to do and that was to continue to pick up points.

With three games to go they now have an 11-point lead over 13th-placed Wimbledon. They are not out of the woods yet but a little bit of breathing space.

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There were four changes to the squad that defeated Sevenoaks in the previous game.

Curtis Barnes crosses in style for Raiders | Picture: Colin CoulsonCurtis Barnes crosses in style for Raiders | Picture: Colin Coulson
Curtis Barnes crosses in style for Raiders | Picture: Colin Coulson

Injuries ruled out Joe Knight, Jack Doorey-Palmer and Caleb Ashworth. Ed Grinsted was also unavailable. On the positive side Fraser Bruce returned after missing a couple of games, Dan Macadams and Will Rigelsford returned after representing the Royal Navy and Charlie Spencer was on the bench.

In the hour before the game started a hailstorm of monumental proportions hit the ground while both teams were warming up. Thankfully it abated prior to kick off and the game was played in glorious sunshine, although underfoot conditions were rather heavy. A fast, open game entertained the crowd.

Raiders played down the slope and with the wind in the first half. The hosts kicked off and with only six minutes played, scored an unconverted try to lead 5-0.

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The visitors got into their stride and produced good build-up play but were guilty of making simple errors at key moments. Juddians punished them for this with two converted tries in the 16th and 19th minutes. With a lead of 19-0 the visitors faced an uphill task after a slow start.

Jack Forrest about to go over | Picture by Colin CoulsonJack Forrest about to go over | Picture by Colin Coulson
Jack Forrest about to go over | Picture by Colin Coulson

The home side looked dangerous in possession and were ruthless at capitalising on mistakes made by the visitors.

As the game moved into the second quarter Raiders began to have more of the ball and in attacking areas.

After Juddians had given away a penalty, Raiders kicked to touch and produced clean ball at the ensuing lineout. They built a forward based attack that forced the home side to concede another penalty close to their try line.

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Raiders took a scrum from which they moved the ball to the backs and Harrison Sims took a pass on the gain line which he juggled under pressure but collected cleanly before diving over. With the conversion missed Juddians had a 19-5 lead.

The visitors set up a ruck in the middle of the pitch and Cam Dobinson put up a high box kick, no-one from either side could take it on the full and a favourable bounce saw the ball land in Curtis Barnes’ hands. With nothing in front of him but the try line he raced 30m to touch down. Louis Ellis converted and the lead was reduced to 19-12.

The home side responded quickly with two further converted tries to open up a 33-12 lead after 35 minutes. These came from a combination of good play and a few missed tackles.

The visitors knew they were up against a good side but in terms of their battle at the lower end of the table, they knew they had to get at least a try bonus point.

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In the final couple of minutes of the half they again raised their efforts and got back on the attack.

They produced excellent multi-phase rugby which resulted in Juddians conceding a penalty on their 5m line.

Raiders opted to take a scrum and the forwards took the battle to the defenders and after progress was held up the ball arrived with skipper Jack Forrest, who shook off the attempted tacklers to go under the posts. Ellis again converted and it was 33-19 at the break.

Raiders restarted after the break knowing that a win was still possible but also that only one more try would secure a bonus point. But within a minute the visitors conceded another converted try and suddenly victory looked a long way away at 40-19.

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Raiders introduced Grant Gatford, Harry Forrest, Charlie Spencer, Will Rigelsford and Balazs Magda to bring fresh legs on for the challenge.

Positive play from steady lineout and scrum possession indicated that the visitors had more tries in them, but the hosts rattled up two more converted tries, stretching their lead to 54-19.

As has happened many times this season, Raiders raised their efforts showing great spirit and plenty of skill.

They were rewarded after 30 minutes when a long pass to Will Rawlinson on the right wing gave him the chance to outpace the cover and dive in at the corner to score the fourth try for a bonus point. With the conversion missed the score was 54-24.

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The visitors maintained the pressure on the Tonbridge defence playing expansive rugby.

Charlie Spencer had a run down the left and chipped ahead but the roll of the ball just evaded the chasing players as it went into touch.

A good spell in attack by Raiders was relieved when they gave away a penalty. Within moments Juddians were moving towards another try scoring chance wide on the right.

Rawlinson made an excellent effort to cover from the opposite wing but his last-ditch tackle was deemed illegal and a penalty try was awarded. With only a couple of minutes left it was 61-24.

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From the restart the home side knocked on and Raiders had an attacking scrum.

The visitors maintained pressure on the Tonbridge defence and the final score of the game came when veteran front rower Grant Gatford reached out to score with one hand as several tacklers brought him to ground.

Forrest added the extras and it ended 61-31.

Referee: Simon Waite

Scorers: Tries: Sims, Barnes, Forrest, Rawlinson, Gatford. Cons: Ellis (2), J Forrest

Raiders: Fraser Bruce 2. Will Gearing-Grief 3. Ben Featherstone 4. Jack Lake 5. Dan Macadams 6. Alfie Ambrose 7. Ollie Crow 8. Frank Taggart 9. Cam Dobinson 10. Louis Ellis 11. Curtis Barnes 12. Harrison Sims 13. J Forrest – Captain 14. Will Rawlinson 15. Tom Derrick. Replacements: 16. Balazs Magda 17. Grant Gatford 18. Will Rigelsford 19. Charlie Spencer 20. Harry Forrest.

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