McSorleys Match Report - Raiders 03/Nov/2018
By Grant Beuzeval
Raiders show class and control in a convincing win
By Chris "Pegleg" Harris
With Hong Kong desperately clinging on to summer despite Halloween being passed and with a set of players missing (let us just call them the Suspicious Seven) the Raiders arrived in the Valley with a much changed team from previous weeks. Some faces were brand new with debutant Sean Casey having recently arrived from Hong Kong and veteran Full-Back Shaun Tibbatts returning to the Raiders for the first time this season.
The new blood in the team obviously had a galvanizing effect with the Raiders starting very strongly up front and bullying the opposition forwards. Strong carries from the entire pack in particular Ian King allowed good territory to be made through the middle forcing the penalty which debutant Sean Casey tapped quickly for himself to crash over within 6 minutes. Owen Pescod sadly missing the conversion.
This early score may have caused a slight lapse in concentration with the Raiders not able to secure the ball again properly for several minutes, giving away several penalties at the breakdown in that period much to the chagrin of some players. Tai Po capitalized after their sustained possession by working the ball well through the forwards and eventually creating a good mismatch of big guy vs little guy to power through for a converted try and the lead after 14 minutes.
However what had looked like a Tai Po renaissance was not to be with the Raiders gradually regain control of the ball after a period of scrappy play from both sides. A poor clearing kick from Tai Po allowed the ageless Tony Scott is start a counter attack which was ably carried on by CHARLES MARTIN into the opposition 22 which eventually forced the penalty. Again the quick tap was the opposition and after a couple of phases Lawrence Tuck was able to pick and go over from 1 meter out. Owen “Of course I missed some kicks I’d broken my foot” Pescod sadly not making the conversion.
The Raiders were now in full swing with pressure in defense forcing mistakes and a turnover inside the opposition 22, after a few good phases the ball was swung wide to the right and Owen Pescod showed some silky footwork to beat 3 defenders and finish from 10 yards out. Paddy Balfour stepped up to the 10 and slotted the extras to give the Raiders a 17-7 lead at the break.
Substitute coach Thierry Barot let the team know he expected to see more of the same in the second half and with those words still ringing in their ears the Raiders started the second half like a runaway freight train. A set piece move off a scrum had the opposition concerned enough to concede and penalty and in what was becoming a theme a quick tap penalty allowed Ian King to make hard yards and suck in defenders so the ball could be swung out wide for Paddy Balfour to go over for the score inside 2 minutes, adding the extras himself from a wide angle.
What followed was a sustained period of Raiders possession in which several chances to score went begging but the ball retention and control shown was exemplary. Eventually the sustained pressured caused the dogged Tai Po defense to give away a penalty 5 yards out. With the forwards lining up ready to receive a tap penalty Paddy Balfour decided the element of surprise was best and turned 180 degrees around to go himself and wriggle through a few tackles to ground the ball on the line for his second of the day. Shaun Tibbatts stepped up to take over the kicking duties (as was his right apparently due to it being his tee people were using) but was unable to add the extras.
The Raiders continued to enjoy good sustained possession and managed to create some good opportunities that they were unable to take. With runners breaking the line but failing to find the supporting player on a couple of occasions and the ball being held up over the line. Tai Po therefore must have been delighted when they were able to gather a bobbling ball and find a good mismatch again to go through and dot down under the posts to peg the score back to 27-14.
However as before any resurgence was short lived and a good scrum move put Owen Pescod through into space and the watching fans began to cheer him on towards the line, however the opposition were able to scramble across to him and drag him down 10 yards short. Forwards and backs that originally thought they were just going to watch a length of the field run in suddenly had to put on some speed to catch up and secure the ball which they were able to do. The ball came out towards what would usually be a back line but instead found front row Lawrence Tuck who showed good composure to bump off a tackler and pass the ball over another defender to allow Ian Kitchenham (played in the unaccustomed role of Flanker) to stroll over. Shaun Tibbatts stepped up to seal things in style with the conversion to make the final score 34-17.
Chris “Pegleg” Harris