Worthing Raiders are too strong for Old Albanian

Worthing Raiders beat Old Albanian 31-7 in their latest National two south triumph at Roundstone Lane.

In truth Raiders probably should have scored at least a couple more tries but for the most part they had produced a very high standard of open, running rugby which would have tested the best of defences and it certainly pleased the crowd. Up there with the Redruth performance as of one of the best this season.

Many fine individual performances across the team gave ample choice for the Man of the Match award, however It was Jack Lake who received the award for the second time this season, for his all-round contribution to the team’s performance. Another five points earned keeping Raiders hot on the heels of the three sides above them in the league.

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This was the 18th round of the competition but due to the interference of Covid pre-Christmas it was 17th game of the season for Raiders. The visitors to Roundstone Lane for this game were Old Albanian from St Albans. The away fixture early in the season produced a win for Raiders 13-22.

Raiders celebrate their first try, scored by Connor Slevin / Picture: Stephen Goodger

With the home side sitting in fourth place and the visitors in seventh a close encounter with quality rugby was expected. The squad selected had six changes from the previous week. Dan Sargent, Elliott Quinton and Harrison Sims returned to the starting line-up and Tom Young, Cassius Cleaves and Rob Smith were selected on the bench. Being able to interchange players in this way shows the squad has quality in depth which is paramount in maintaining the challenge for the top spot.

Matchday was dry with little wind and a good surface for open rugby. Another crowd of nearly five hundred was in attendance to witness the afternoon’s entertainment. Old Albanian defended the southern end of the ground in the first half as Raiders kicked off. Raiders showed their intentions straight away with some fast-flowing phase play. With ball in hand, they looked dangerous but during the first eight minutes they relinquished good field position by giving away three penalties. Discipline and patience were needed to turn pressure into points.

With nine minutes played the high tempo displayed by the home side was rewarded. Jack Forrest made an incisive break in centre field before passing to Connor Slevin to beat the last defender and score the first try of the afternoon. Matt McLean converted to give Raiders an early lead 7-0. The visitors looked capable of scoring when in possession throughout the first half although it was the home side that had territorial dominance and the lions’ share of possession.

Raiders came close to a second try after nineteen minutes, following a sweeping move across the field leading to several close quarter phases near the visitors’ try line. Unfortunately, the ball was held up over the line and the pressure was relieved with a goal line drop out. Twice in the first quarter Raiders won the ball at lineouts on the oppositions throw in. Elliott Luke collecting one of these and making twenty metres up field to set up a promising attack. Jerome Rudder then burst through a couple of tackles before being brought to ground. The move fizzled out and to rub salt into the wound Jerome was injured and had to leave the game. Cleaves replaced him in the twenty-third minute, his first appearance after a long lay-off through injury.

Cassius Cleaves races over for the final try / Picture: Stephen Goodger

As often happens when you have had a period of domination but have failed to score, the other team take their first real opportunity and do score. Thus, Old Albanian levelled the game at 7-7 with a converted try. The home side were soon back in the saddle and creating real chances with their expansive style of play. Just before the half hour mark Raiders had a lineout five metres from the visitors’ try line, they set up the maul and a try looked inevitable but the referee awarded a penalty to the visitors. For a technical infringement and the chance had gone.

Raiders earned their second try a few minutes later. Frank Taggart made a typical thrusting run up the blindside of a ruck, when tackled a series of phases at close quarters followed before the ball was swiftly moved into midfield where Lake cut a great line at a gap in the defence, side stepped the last defender and dived into score close to the posts. McLean converted to re-establish the lead at 14-7.

The visitors still looked capable of turning things around and it was only excellent defence by the home side from a catch and drive that prevented them from crossing the line a few moments before the break. The half ended when Raiders again won lineout ball on the oppositions’ throw. Dan Sargent and Elliott Luke taking advantage and driving up the field. However, the move came to nothing and the referee blew the whistle for half time. A good forty minutes from the home side but it was hoped the missed opportunities wouldn’t come back to haunt them after the break.

HT: Worthing Raiders 14 Old Albanian 7

Old Albanian restarted the game after halftime, now defending the northern end of the ground. They had the first chance of the half with a catch and drive from a lineout but Raiders’ defence held firm and they cleared the danger. More expansive rugby followed from the home side, Cleaves started the move with a run and chip ahead down the right wing. The ball found its way to touch and Raiders had another chance to attack from the lineout, unfortunately as it looked like another try was about to be scored, a knock on came to the rescue of the visitors.

With nearly ten minutes gone Sargent and Jack Lee were replaced by Fraser Bruce and Will Scholes. The Raiders’ scrum had become quite dominant by this point and more than once won the ball on the visitors’ put in. Rob Smith replaced Elliott Quinton for his long-awaited return to the team.

With ten minutes of the half gone another chance arose as Raiders had a lineout fifteen metres from Old Albanian’s try line. This time the catch and drive was executed correctly and Luke touched down. McLean again converted and the lead looked a bit more secure at 21-7. The visitors continued to attack with menace whenever they had possession but the home sides’ defence was excellent and rarely did they look as if they could breach it.

Raiders, although playing really well in all areas of their game were still guilty of giving away silly penalties on a regular basis. With twenty-four minutes played and the Raiders’ backs showing great pace and skill, Slevin made a clean break down the right side of the field and fed the ball to Cleaves to streak in for the team’s fourth try. With the conversion missed the lead was now 26-7 and the home side had earned their bonus point.

With the forwards dominating the scrum and lineout the backs had ample ball to demonstrate their skills. With ten minutes to go Raiders put the contest out of reach for the visitors when swift handling in the backs put the ball in the hands of Cleaves forty metres from the try line. A combination of speed and sidestepping saw him breeze in for his second try. Although unconverted the lead was now 31-7.

Tom Young replaced Elliott Luke for the final minutes of the game. Elliott Quinton returned to the back row as Slevin left the field and skipper Kemp Price moved to the wing. Raiders closed the game out by keeping possession for the final few minutes until the clock turned red and they could put the ball off the field to allow the referee to blow the final whistle.

Scorers: Tries: Slevin, Lake, Luke, Cleaves x 2. Cons: McLean x 3

Raiders: Dan Sargent 2. Elliott Luke 3. Rhys Litterick 4. Jack Lee 5. Jack Lake 6. Elliott Quinton 7. Kemp Price – Capt 8. Frank Taggart 9. Cam Dobinson 10. Josh Tusler 11. Jerome Rudder 12. Harrison Sims 13. Jack Forrest 14. Matt McLean 15. Connor Slevin. Bench: 16. Tom Young 17. Fraser Bruce 18. Will Scholes 19. Cassius Cleaves 20. Rob Smith.

Referee: Richard Gordon

Attendance: 470

Proto Food Group Man of the Match: Jack Lake