These two teams played each other by way of a warm up match, with the home team scraping a win by 2 points. Things hadn’t gone too well in the season proper, with Raiders propping the league up and Skolars just one place above them. Skolars had 2 wins to their name, with one of those being against Raiders at their ground; Raiders were yet to win.
Raiders high profile league signing Rangi featured just twice, before he was released by the club, the distance from his family proving to be too far to ensure his good mental health, as far as I can see he only played twice. Gavin Henson, a union legend doesn’t seem to have featured past their early cup game.
Those who watch rugby league regularly will know that momentum is all, and that momentum was most definitely with London Skolars at the start of the game. They kicked off and Raiders went close after an early 40/20, the ball was kicked too long on their second set. Skolars made a good break with Lamont Bryan storming up the pitch, that’s not a very funny sight as a defender. Raiders were trapped across their line and Skolars went again, a missed intercept saw Skolars with a third set and this time Paulus Latu got over the line. Neil Thorman duly converted.
Give a team more than one set and if they have anything about them they’s often score a try, and so it proved for Skolars and Latu as they had another 2 sets, virtually from kick off. We had several tries with defenders hanging off the try scorer and this was one such as Latu used all of his considerable strength to score. This try was close to the side line, but Thorman kicked a great conversion and Skolars were up by 12.
You can see where momentum comes into this, it took just 3 or 4 passes from the kick off for Bryan to power over the line, he’s a man who’s vary hard to stop close to the line! Another successful conversion and Skolars had 18 on the board.
Raiders had some possession after a Skolars player dropped the ball, they wee then awarded a penalty, but it came to nothing when the ball was spilled. Beyond frustrating for the coaching team looking on. Especially when the Skolars attack saw their 4th try, scored bu Louis Singleton. They were 22 nil up after just 20 minutes. The fourth conversion, a relatively straightforward one was missed.
I was writing the try scorers in my notebook and trying to Tweet (not always accurately I’m afraid to admit), it was hard to keep up. Lamont Bryan scored his second and Skolars had a 28 nil lead. The pendulum was about to swing however as the ball was lost in the tackle.
Raiders have put some highlights on their Twitter account, which might help me explain better how Ashley Bateman scored their first try. He had 3 Skolars defenders surrounding him, he then twisted and simply plonked the ball down! A familiar shout at a rugby league match is – ‘Man and Ball’ – just how Bateman managed to get that ball down I still don’t really know! But, get it down he did and the conversion saw their first 6 points on the scoreboard.
The next few sets were a story of Skolars going close and being held up, I counted 3 times, which was strong defence for a team adrift by 22 points. Latu lost the ball, then Skolars gave away a penalty. Will Ramsey got his name on the scorecard next for Raiders, with a piece of pure skill he kicked the ball through chasing after it he beat the Skolars defenders to the ball to touch down.
Raiders kick on the last of their set if 6 from kick off went too far and Skolars again reached the Raiders line as they attacked, Omari Caro was held up and the ball was knocked on. A troubling, high spiral kick from Raiders was well taken, but ultimately dropped, that led to a try on debut by Aeden Coleman, Raiders had closed the gap to 14.
A high grab by a Skolars man gave Raiders a chance to clear their lines as half time approached, another ill judged challenge saw a second penalty, but time ran out for Raiders and the team went in on London Skolars 28 West Wales Raiders 14.
There was good news to share at half-time when it was announced that the Under 12’s won their Final against the Bromley Bengals U12’s by 26 points to 10 to be crowned London Junior League Champions. They weren’t at the match, but the Under 16’s were and they proudly collected their season trophies, some were as young as 14. One player, Omarian Smith was awarded with both the Coach’s player of the Year award and the Players, Player of the Year trophy, a name to keep an eye out for! In checking the Bromley Bengals Facebook account I can see they had teams in 3 finals on Saturday,
There was a nasty collision early in the second half as 2 players competed for the ball in the air, the Skolars player was deemed to have committed a foul and Raiders were awarded a penalty. They then received a second when the attacker wasn’t released in the tackle after the ref had shouted – HELD, bit of a schoolboy error that. All that field space saw Jamie Murphy benefiting with his first try, he soared through the defenders to go over the line with Lamont Bryan on his back.
Murphy scored his second moments later, not his third, as announced, that was to come later. The conversion took the score to London Skolars 28 West Wales Raiders 26. That 28 point gap looked a long way away early in the second half.
The home support got behind their team and that drove Jacob Thomas over the line to stretch the lead again, however after that hard conversion in the first half this one was missed strangely.
Both of these teams have identical twins in their squad and Skolars set, Michael and Judd Greenhalgh were in the 17 for this game, mixing them up could be understandable, but Jamie Murphy and Ash Bateman really don’t look alike – that’s where things went wrong with Raiders first try. But, there was no mix up with Skolars second try of this half, it definitely was Judd Greenhalgh who went under the posts to touch down.
Skolars added another 2 to their score after receiving 2 penalties, kicking a penalty is something that’s not seen often in rugby league, but with the ball being returned from the kick off this felt like the right choice to take the scoreline to Skolars 40 Raiders 26.
However Will Ramsey had other plans for that kick off, he gathered his own kick, another under-used tactic. Skolars weathered the initial storm but a run of penalties saw Raiders go over the line again, this was the hat-trick try for Jamie Murphy, his family were sitting in front of me, it was lovely to see his children so pleased with their Dad’s efforts.
The final try of the game saw another hat-trick this time for Paulus Latu, the first time I’d seen him play, he certainly impressed. The final score was London Skolars 46 West Wales Raiders 30. 76 points, a game that clearly saw some errors but it also had some great moments, highly entertaining stuff!
My photos didn’t quite work out as they should have, but here’s a selection including some try scorers.