Cinderford 32 Worthing Raiders 31
CINDERFORD snatched victory from the jaws of defeat against rivals Worthing Raiders in another National One thriller at Dockham Road.
Five tries scored, a vital win secured after a 32-24 defeat to Blackheath last week, and five points in the bag.
What more could 14th-placed Foresters want to aid their campaign to escape relegation?
But that only tells half the story.
The scintillating second-half fightback and the jubilant celebrations only served to gloss over what was a dismal first half against opposition that should have been disposed of more easily on home soil.
After battling to give themselves a 32-24 lead with less than 10 minutes remaining, Cinderford simply had to keep the ball in hand and play it safe.
But Worthing were allowed to score a try in the 77th minute which led to a nerve-shredding final period for the home fans but more significantly gifted Raiders two bonus points.
Director of rugby Andy Deacon remained upbeat about the result and said: “Some people will focus on Worthing getting two points.
“Yes they did, but we’ve got to win a game of rugby and that’s what we did.
“I don’t know if the pressure got to the guys or whether they underestimated Worthing but our first half performance was below what was required.
“That has been our Achilles heel for most of the season.
“We always think we can win whether we are playing badly or not. But we had enough in us to turn it round and make sure we got the result.”
Gloucester hooker Koree Britton started while former Gloucester captain Adam Balding made a return from a six-week lay-off with a leg injury.
But despite the magnitude of the game, Cinderford suffered the worst of starts.
A bullish run through a glaring gap in defence from hooker Matt Miles set up a try under the posts six minutes in for full-back Kieran Leeming, easily converted by scrum-half Joe Govett.
And the visitors made another chance count, albeit a fortuitous score.
Britton’s pass to winger Nev Codlin was intercepted and centre Ollie Richards ran the length of the pitch to dive under the posts for a converted try, while fly-half Mark Davies kicked three points to get Cinderford on the board.
Clive Stuart-Smith scrambled over from a driving maul to further close the gap, but Davies’ conversion drifted wide.
The lineout became a problem for Cinderford as the clock ticked down towards the break.
Twice Britton threw the ball too far and on the third time of asking his effort was stolen and prop Dan Sargent muscled over under the posts for another converted score.
A 21-8 deficit would leave a mountain to climb in the second half and Cinderford reacted with Sam Baker crashing over in the corner just before half-time.
Worthing extended their lead with a penalty in the 48th minute before Cinderford’s driving maul went over, this time Britton grounding the ball to compensate for first-half errors.
Full-back Mike Wilcox expertly gathered Jack Adams’ high kick to dive over the whitewash and Davies’ difficult conversion was struck beautifully – Cinderford were one point ahead.
Another score from a driving maul for Stuart-Smith and a clean conversion for Davies should have sealed the deal.
But Cinderford let replacement scrum-half Jordan Burns stroll under the posts for an easy score and might come to regret gifting their rivals two bonus points.
CINDERFORD: M Wilcox, S Baker, J Adams, R Winchle, N Codlin, M Davies, C Stuart-Smith, C Bundy, (W Davis, 69), K Britton (T Bozzard, 69), E Booley, E King, T Hicks, A Balding, M Brown, G Evans. Reps: L Randall, D Pointon, S Hawley
WORTHING RAIDERS: K Leeming, B Loosmore, O Richards, K Richards (J Burns, 58), A Nielsen, B Dudley, J Govett, D Sargent, M Miles (P Cleveland, 78), J Burns (M Pointing, 58), S Gaynor, S Barlow (C McGowan, 40), R Smith (S Hewick, 45), J Chisholm, L Perkins.
REFEREE: Marcus Caton
STAR MAN: Clive Stuart-Smith, but a mention must go to Adam Balding who made an outstanding return from injury.