TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT
Shelford 21 Raiders 22
IT WAS a day where a lot went wrong and, very nearly, a whole lot more.
But for all the anguish, nailbiting and injuries Raiders came through with another full house of points. Phew!
Shelford proved to be a million miles from the side thumped 52-0 back at Footes Lane and on top of their significant improvement, Raiders, already deprived of a few key players, lost Dan Hill and Malcolm Barnes to what could be mid-term injuries, as well as Luke Jones.
Hill damaged his ankle and Barnes his elbow and in each case they face a race to be fit for the big one, at home to Barnes, on Saturday week.
Nor did it help losing Layton Batiste for 10 minutes to the sin bin on a ground where Raiders have never won.
The new Shelford 3G pitch is part of an RFU initiative across the country that came into play after the 2015 World Cup which saw the governing body pay for the 3G surface, floodlights and fencing, costing around £1 million.
It certainly looked immaculate and all bode well for a game of running rugby in which the home side displayed their new imports.
Shelford have recruited four overseas players on a short-term basis to bolster their league position and the home side started strongly straight from the first whistle.
Their regular attacks were repelled on numerous occasions but eventually a hands in the ruck penalty from Guernsey gave ‘The Peacocks’ the opportunity for an easy three points kick in front of the posts which they duly missed.
The game continued to flow backwards and forwards with both teams nullifying their opponents attacks.
But the Raiders were beginning to gain the upper hand, especially in the forwards and at scrum time they would dominate throughout the game.
On 20 minutes Raiders broke the deadlock when the backs and forwards combined well to send Anthony Armstrong on his way past his opposition winger for a try just left of the post. Owen Thomas hit the post with the conversion.
It was at this point that Raiders lost Hill to an ankle injury and if that was not sufficient a blow Malcolm Barnes hyper-extended his elbow when landing and became another victim of the hard surface.
On the verge of half-time and with Batiste in the sin-bin Shelford took advantage and scored a converted try for a narrow half time lead.
With Kyle Brown on for Malcolm Barnes, the Raiders started the second half as far the stronger side.
The onslaught eventually paid dividends when Cameron Craine powered over the whitewash with the help of his fellow forwards .
Thomas again missed his kick but we were ahead and 15 minutes in the forwards and backs combined well to send Luke Jones flying for the try line only for the Shelford defence to high tackle as he went to ground the ball.
The result was a penalty try and a 17-7 lead, but on the downside Jones had also damaged an ankle and would soon depart the action.
Straight from the kick off Raiders retained possession and with some fine ball handling from both the forwards and backs Layton Batiste broke and his run set up Blair Campbell for a fine try.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t Thomas’s day with the boot and again the conversion failed.
With a bonus point tucked away in their pockets, Raiders thought they had the game won and let their grip slip.
Shelford regrouped and their pacy winger skipped a few tackles to score a fine try which with the conversion made it 14-22.
The home side sniffed a chance and on 74 minutes their full back kicked ahead the and won the race for the touch down.
With the conversion successful it was now a one-point game heading into the last few minutes.
With Jones off Campbell slotted into the centres and produced a fine display of tackling to hold back the home side on their final onslaught which, thankfully, was in vain.
The title is still on, but this was a warning. We’re not there yet.
Sam Steventon, Charlie Currie, Layton Batiste, Nick Merrien, Dale Martin, Dan Hill, Robin Le Cocq, Douglas Horrocks (capt); Malcolm Barnes, Owen Thomas, Anthony Armstrong, Ned Brown, Luke Jones, Blair Campbell, Sam Whitehead.
Replacements: Kyle Brown, Jason Batiste, Cameron Craine.