They played some sublime rugby but there were also short periods of inaccuracy and indiscipline. So there’s plenty to work on until this squad reaches its potential but there was much to applaud and enjoy.
A crowd of close to 500 watched Raiders maintain their early league lead.
Kick-off had to be delayed by 20 minutes after the visitors were caught up in hold-ups on the way from Devon.
Cam Dobinson, Tom Adams, Jon Whittall returned to the squad and Joe Spurgeon was selected in the second row after a long absence through injury and study commitments.
After only a minute the visitors were awarded a penalty within kicking range, but the attempt was unsuccessful.
Raiders set about playing their fast, open style of rugby which was to stretch the Barnstaple defence. But the first try came from aggressive defence from the home side.
The visitors tried to run the ball out of defence but Raiders tackling forced the ball to be dropped on the 22m line. The ball was kicked ahead, and Cam Dobinson gathered and dived over. Matt McLean converted.
Moments later a precision passing move involving Jack Forrest and Harrison Sims on the half-way line released Will Beer to out-pace the defence and score the second try. McLean was unable to convert but it was already 12-0.
Barnstaple were struggling to get into the game after their tortuous journey and were lucky not to concede a try when the referee adjudged a knock-on in touching down.
However, it wasn’t long before the third try was scored. From a scrum in front of the dugouts, the backs used showed a neat interchange in midfield which released McLean on the halfway line. He ran round the cover defence and dived in to score in the corner. His conversion attempt narrowly missed.
The hosts were dominant, and another try could have been scored after good work by forwards and backs created an overlap, only for the final pass go to ground.
By the 24th minute the home side secured the bonus point when Beer scored his second try after more excellent movement of the ball. Again, the touchline conversion attempt went wide.
The lead was 22-0 and the visitors were finding it difficult to make any headway.
Barnstaple got meaningful possession and put Raiders under pressure for the first time. Their efforts were rewarded with a converted try after 32 minutes to make it 22-7.
Raiders resumed their dominance from the restart with a turnover by Makeen Alikhan.
As half-time approached the ball was passed to McLean from a scrum on the left. His ‘kick pass’ of 40m went across the field to Beer and from the next ruck the ball was moved back to the centre fand Kieran Leeming chipped the ball over the defence towards the touchline.
Makeen Alikhan was the first to reach it and fed a well-timed pass inside to Harrison Sims who rounded off the move with the fifth try. McLean converted and it was 29-7 at the break.
Nathan Jibulu replaced Henry Birch and Jon Whittall replaced Joe Spurgeon for the second half.
Barnstaple settled into their game quicker after the break and the home side gave away several penalties in a short period, then had Jack Lake yellow carded on 42 minutes. After a further period of Barnstaple possession, they scored a second converted try to close the gap to 29-14.
Soon Raiders were back on the attack. Cam Dobinson made a sniping break leading to several carries from the forwards. The ball was moved out to the backs and Leeming gave a nicely timed inside pass to Jibulu who crashed over from ten metres. The conversion was missed.
With 52 minutes played Jack Lee received a yellow card causing Raiders to play with 13 for a few minutes. They continued to play expansive rugby and again came close to scoring after a surging run from Kemp Price.
The seventh try came as the ball was moved along the back line and a neat grubber kick put the ball behind Barnstaple’s defence. McLean was quickly through to pick up and run around to score under the posts. His conversion stretched the lead to 41-14.
Tom Adams replaced Fraser Bruce and Barnstaple had a good run of possession. Raiders again gave away silly penalties which meant giving away a lot of territory.
The home side needed a wake-up call, which they got when the visitors scored their third converted try to close the gap to 41-21.
Rhys Morgan replaced Cam Dobinson and Charlie Spencer replaced Jerome Rudder.
The home side sprang back into life and nearly scored but the final pass went to ground five metres from the try line.
Henry Birch returned to the field to replace Dan Sargent in the front row.
Raiders continued to play with a high tempo.
The ball was moved from touch line to touch line and constantly stretched a creaking Barnstaple defence.
The eighth try came after the visitors conceded a penalty ten metres from their line, a quick tap was taken and Makeen Alikhan ploughed his way through the defence to score.
McLean converted, and the lead extended to 48-21.
The home side completed the scoring with a less flamboyant try than some of the previous ones, when Nathan Jibulu crossed the line from a well-organised catch and drive.
The final conversion attempt was unsuccessful but he crowd went home happy with the result and the rugby they had been treated to.