A curious Canterbury tale

ROCKY the Raider mascot was absent and so, for much of the first half at Footes Lane on Saturday anyway, was the Raiders' defence.

Fly-half Owen Thomas lines up a kick to the corner for Raiders. (Picture by Luke Le Prevost, 30749013)
Fly-half Owen Thomas lines up a kick to the corner for Raiders. (Picture by Luke Le Prevost, 30749013)

Raiders came into the game with a rounded record of 13 league wins and 13 defeats which looked every inch becoming 14 as the eager visitors, sitting below Jordan Reynolds’ men in the table, raced into a 21-0 advantage in no time.

Ultimately, and somewhat heroically, Raiders recovered to lead by seven with 80 minutes on the clock then, in another twist, were pegged back with a penalty try award as Canterbury mounted one last attack.

At the final whistle Jordan Reynolds seemed happy with the 33-33 draw and with the Siam double-header on the horizon it was important to put in a performance, and for those returning after rests to shake off some rust.

One of those was long-serving No. 8 Dougie Horrocks, who has served notice of his intention to head back to the solitude and spaces of the family farm in New Zealand.

Horrocks, who promises to hang around until the early autumn, may well go down as one of the club’s all-time greats, perhaps even one of the pound-for-pound best.

There is a an element of John Wayne about his performances. Wherever he goes, others follow, even though you could never imagine ‘The Duke’ in lime green boots.

But with his socks around his ankles the Kiwi was almost immediately on a cavalry charge alongside 'Corporal' Tom Ceillam, the man celebrating 300 appearances, 300 battles.

Even allowing for Horrocks’ excellence, the question remains who will be missed most if, as is quite possible, Ceillam calls it quits at the end of this campaign.

Canterbury opened the scoring after four minutes, scrum-half Ben Cooper touching down and allowing Thomas Best a simple conversion in front of the posts.

It was soon 12-0 as from a scrum deep in the Canterbury half, the visitors, having dismissively pushed the home pack back, broke at speed and scythed through with Best feeding Frank Reynolds to score.

Best again converted with Raiders still wiping the sleep from their eyes.

It would be a while yet before the home side truly stirred and with only 17min. on the clock, after Canterbury were held up under the posts, a close range penalty was a reasonable consolation.

The visitors chose a scrum, and several phases later Alex Evans added the third try which Best converted for a 21-0 advantage with less than a quarter of the game completed.

Raiders were needing some inspiration from somewhere and it came via their top try-scorer, Anthony Armstrong, whose close range effort was his 12th try of the campaign.

Owen Thomas converted and the Raiders had stirred.

Canterbury were a man down for the last 10 minutes of the opening half but you would not have thought it as the golds ploughed through for a bonus point fourth try from full-back Aiden Moss.

Faced with his most testing conversion yet, Best missed from the right touchline. The Greens roared back and only a last-ditch tackle prevented Callum Roberts racing over in the Hockey Club corner.

Then, two minutes later and with the 40 up, Roberts did find enough space to run in for the home team’s second score which went unconverted.

Nevertheless, a 26-12 half-time advantage had the enthusiastic Canterbury supporters in raptures, the home fans worried.

The second half opened with another Canterbury player going to the bin, and he had just arrived there when Ciaran McGann nipped in. With Thomas converting Raiders were back within seven.

Luke Sayer then replaced the injured McGann and with still 26 minutes remaining Thomas wriggled through, and with his close range conversion levelled the match at 26 apiece.

Momentum was with the home side and looking to capitalise Reynolds threw on three new forwards for the final quarter. Ceillam, afforded a great ovation, was among those withdrawn.

Ceillam himself was soon clapping as Oscar Baird darted in between the posts to give Raiders the lead and with Thomas converting Raiders had turned it around.

Twice more Raiders threatened additions, but first Joe Andresen and then Sayer were denied with the try line looming, and to add to their frustration replacement James Burger picked up a yellow card with three-and-a-half minutes left on the clock.

Brave Canterbury came back once more and after a sustained attack were awarded the equalising penalty try.

To bring the curtain down on a busy day at Footes Lane Canterbury Ladies defeated the Raiders Ladies 60-11.

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