READING RAIDERS 42 – 28 ALL GOLDS A
On the scoreboard, this was a defeat for the All Golds. But from the showing on the pitch, this was nothing less than a victory with each member of the team showing determination, strength, and no little skill to come to within sight of an incredible victory.
Reduced to the bare 13 players by cry-offs and injuries before the match, the 13 remaining All Golds battled back from 24-0 down to lead 28-24 until the last quarter when the Raiders regained the lead with the All Golds reduced to 11 fit players.
Their spirit was exemplified by the last play of the game when Reading’s second row Charlie Carter powered through the defensive line and set sail for the tryline. Tom Gaffney gave chase and dragged the Raiders man down just short of the line, forcing him to lose possession into the bargain.
It is noteworthy that, when down to fewer than 13 men, the All Golds outscored their opponents five tries to three and hadn’t wilted by the time the referee blew the final whistle.
As the players gathered at the ground before the game, some drastic reshuffling took place to form the 13 into a team to challenge a side that had reached the West of England Grand Final in the last season played.
The backs were shuffled, Joe Uren made a welcome return from injury and Jay Woodley was brought in at hooker for his debut to face the opening onslaught from Reading’s big pack.
In circumstances like these, matches can deteriorate into one-sided affairs. Not so on this occasion.
In welcoming cool, cloudy conditions and on a pitch moistened by overnight rain, the opening seven minutes saw some fast open rugby league played with the All Golds’ support play making a contrast to Reading’s direct power running game.
George Bvuma’s pace worried the Raiders all game and his break after five minutes was a warning for the home side, a warning that was not heeded as he went on to score a hat-trick and be a constant outlet to relieve pressure on the All Golds’ hard-working defence.
The first clear scoring opportunity came to the All Golds after six minutes, but Uren lost the ball in trying to scramble over from dummy half on the goal-line.
After Ash Lewis had slightly overhit a kick to the corner in the next attack, the Raiders released their speedy full-back Luke Schofield who scorched through the All Golds defence to score the first of his four tries.
Four minutes later, Lewis Donnelly’s powerful angled run took him to the line and when Callum House picked up a blocked kick at the end of the next set and weaved his way to the posts, things looked bleak for the visitors.
The blitz continued as Schofield raced through the middle and round Gaffney for his second touchdown immediately afterwards, and when Ben Radford added his fourth goal of the day, the hosts led 24-0.
Things couldn’t get much worse for the All Golds, but they did.
Mike Addis stayed down after attempting a tackle and was led off after lengthy treatment with a suspected broken arm.
The Raiders completed the next set with a kick but lost their discipline and conceded a series of penalties that allowed the All Golds to dominate possession. They made maximum use of it with three tries in a devastating 12-minute spell.
Bvuma grabbed the first, profiting from the All Golds giving the ball width for a simple finish out wide before Woodley wriggled over from close range by the posts. Lewis added both goals.
He was unable to convert the All Golds’ third score, again Bvuma was given the ball in space and he simply ran round his opposite number to score.
Trailing 24-16 at the interval, the All Golds came out for the second period and monopolised possession once more.
Conceding four straight penalties, the Raiders did not have the ball in their hands for fully ten minutes – when they finally got it, they immediately dropped it.
Amazingly by then, they were behind on the scoreboard. Lewis threw a superb dummy which fooled the entire Reading team, leaving him a huge gap to saunter through and score under the posts.
On the next set, Bvuma was set free deep inside his own half and he showed superb pace and evasion to leave defenders trailing as he completed a marvellous hat-trick. Two more Lewis goals had the All Golds 28-24 ahead.
However, they then lost their momentum and also Dan Roberts, who left the field clutching a painful shoulder injury.
Now with a two-man advantage and a period of possession, the Raiders grabbed the lead back through Tyler Smith’s well-taken try and another scorching effort from Schofield, who was simply uncatchable once he had broken the line. The full-back has attracted interest from League One side Hunslet and it was clear to see why.
The All Golds were still competitive and managed to create a few chances in the final quarter. A dangerous kick through by Lewis just eluded Bvuma before Gaffney was inches away from reeling in a similar kick to the opposite wing.
From the handover, Schofield escaped again for another long-range effort, Radford adding the extras for a perfect record with the boot.
Gaffney’s committed defensive play seven minutes later, was the last action of a superbly entertaining game.
The game marked the midway point in the West of England season and the All Golds go into the week’s break in fourth place, two points behind leaders Reading Raiders.
Next weekend, the All Golds’ first team return to action taking on Devon Sharks – whom they beat 34-16 in their last outing – at SGS (kick off 12 noon).
On an historic day for the club, the Golden Ferns will make their debut in the Women’s Super League West as they take on the Cornish Rebels, kick off 2.30pm, also at SGS.
Details of the double header can be found here.
RAIDERS: Luke Schofield; Max Boucher, Tom Platter, Brad Waters, Callum House; Ben Radford, John Boucher; Lewis Donnelly, Solomon Wise, Andy Parr; Charlie Carter, Matthew Wise; Gavin Egan; INTERCHANGE: Eli McMenamin, Chris Kessle, Gareth Coates, Dennis Turatagavou, Dave Abbott, Tyler Smith, Alfie Fry.
Tries: Schofield (9, 19, 59, 66), Donnelly (13), House (17), Smith (56)
Goals: Radford 7 from 7
ALL GOLDS: Tom Gaffney; George Bvuma, James Royle, Marcus Brown,Josh Llewelyn; Joe Uren, Ash Lewis (Capt); Dan Roberts, Jay Woodley, Hector Silva; Wes Long, Mike Addis; Michael Harrison.
Tries: Bvuma (25, 37, 46), Woodley (31), Lewis (43)
Goals: Lewis 4 from 5.
All Golds Man of the Match: A team award this week. All 13 deserve the honour.
Scoring sequence: 6-0, 12-0, 18-0, 24-0, 24-6, 24-12, 24-16, (HT), 24-22, 24-28, 30-28, 36-28, 42-28, (FT)
Penalty Count: 4-9
Referee: Malcolm Holmes
Image – Mike Addis, who was forced from the field with a suspected broken arm against Reading. Image courtesy of Lewis Mitchell photography)