With the home side sitting at the bottom of the league thoughts that this could be an easy win could not be entertained as the last time they played here Raiders only just managed to sneak past their hosts 29-34.
With this in mind and the below standard performance last week, Raiders arrived physically and mentally prepared for the encounter intending to produce the quality of play that had earned them victory at Redruth only a couple of weeks ago.
Sixteen of last week’s squad were again on duty with some positional changes and movement between bench and starting fifteen. As well as this Dan Sargent returned to the front row and Fraser Bruce was selected on the bench. Josh Tusler and Bryn Bradley were making their debuts for Raiders.
Pre-match preparation at the ground was disrupted due to the late arrival of the team after a lengthy hold-up on the M25. After a shorter warm-up than usual Raiders kicked off on a bright, cold afternoon that was to end up a dark and damp early evening.
Raiders found it difficult to get a foothold in the game in the first quarter. Westcliff must be given credit for the effort and skill they put in for the first twenty minutes during which they scored two tries, one of these they converted to take a lead of twelve points into the second quarter. The visitors had very little possession and really looked as if they hadn’t got off the bus during this part of the game.
As the game moved into the second quarter Raiders started to gain a bit more territory and possession. However, they still found it difficult to maintain pressure on the home defence without making errors. It wasn’t until twenty-two minutes had been played that Raiders were able to take some kind of control on proceedings.
After a good spell of possession where they moved the ball through many phases, they ended up with a lineout within fifteen metres of the Westcliff try line. From the lineout they executed an effective catch and drive which resulted in Dan Sargent touching down to open the scoring for the visitors, Matt McLean converted to close the gap to 12-7. Five minutes later Raiders applied similar pressure and scored a second try from a lineout, again it was Dan Sargent who got the touchdown. This time Matt McLean failed with the conversion but with ten minutes left in the half the scores were level at 12-12.
During this final stage of the half Raiders were starting to dominate the play but were not patient or accurate enough to turn this into more points. As the teams went in for the half time break, the visitors were looking a lot more assured than early in the half when the prospect of a defeat had seemed a possibility. Half time score: Westcliff 12 Worthing Raiders 12
Westcliff restarted the game and Raiders were quickly into their stride. With little more than two minutes played, after a multi-phase attack involving forwards and backs Harrison Sims burst through the defence to score his first and Raiders third try of the afternoon. Matt McLean converted and for the first time the visitors were in the lead. 12-19
As the half progressed Raiders used their bench wisely to maintain the tempo of their play. Cam Dobinson, Henry Birch, Fraser Bruce and Will Beer replaced respectively Rhys Morgan, Dan Sargent, Rob Cuffe and Jack Forrest. Dan Sargent returned to the game to replace Rhys Litterick for the last ten minutes. With the visitors raising the standard of their play the home side dug in to try to repel them. However, it only took another five minutes before Harrison Sims scored the bonus point try after more robust approach play. Matt McLean converted and suddenly things were looking a lot better for Raiders as the lead stretched to 12-26.
With eighteen minutes of the half gone what many will view as the highlight of the game occurred. After some controlled and forceful play from the forwards near the Westcliff try line Jack Lake scooped up the ball from the base of a ruck and made the final five metres to dive over the line to score his first ever National league try in his one hundred and seventeenth appearance. There was much celebration amongst the players. Matt McLean again converted and the lead was now 12-38.
The next score for Raiders was really well constructed, starting with frank Taggart taking a tap penalty deep in his own half. After many phases Harrison Sims was on hand to complete the move and score his third try of the match. With the conversion missed the visitors now had a more than comfortable lead at 12 -38.
The home side battled hard and when in possession showed skill and determination although they were unable to turn this into points. With ten minutes left in the game Frank Taggart scored the seventh try for Raiders as he touched down following a solid drive from the forwards. Again, Matt McLean converted to extend the lead to 12-45.
As the final whistle approached Raiders launched another exciting attack involving forwards and backs resulting in a try amazingly for Jack Lake. After waiting one hundred and seventeen games for his first try, he now had two. Now he has found out how to do it perhaps he won’t have to wait as long for his next try. Matt McLean ended the game with the conversion. Final score: Westcliff 12 Worthing Raiders 52
In the end a convincing win on the road and another five points in the league. For Westcliff this was their fourteenth defeat in a row, not many teams would continue to play with such spirit as they do after such a run of games. You have to respect them for their efforts.
Raiders now look forward to the last game before the Christmas break which will complete the first half of the season. Raiders welcome high-flying Esher to Roundstone Lane next Saturday, it should be a cracker of a game.
Referee: Alex Rose
Scorers: Tries: Sargent x2, Sims x3, Lake x2, Taggart. Cons: McLean x6
Raiders: Dan Sargent 2. Elliott Luke 3. Rhys Litterick 4. Rob Cuffe 5. Jack Lee 6. Jack Lake 7. Kemp Price – Capt 8. Frank Taggart 9. Rhys Morgan 10. Josh Tusler 11. Matt McLean 12. Harrison Sims 13. Jack Forrest 14. Levi Davis 15. Kieran Leeming. Bench: 16. Henry Birch 17. Fraser Bruce 18. Bryn Bradley 19. Cam Dobinson 20. Will Beer.