By Ian Golden at Stebonheath Park
A HAT-trick of tries from Sam Grant gave London Skolars a 28-18 victory in a tight game against West Wales Raiders in Llanelli on Saturday (Feb 23).
The Welsh side are still looking for their first victory as a semi-pro club but the effort was there as they put in an improved performance than the effort in Coventry last week.
Until Raiders win a game, everyone will be looking at 2018 matches and commenting on “improvement”. For the record, last season’s encounter here was a 62-12 win for the Skolars, but all the Raiders will be thinking about is how this game got away.
Skolars took the lead after just two minutes when Sam Grant scored in the corner. Neil Thorman converted.
Raiders levelled three minutes later. After being awarded a penalty on Skolars’ half-way line, Dan Maiden crashed over and Tyler Hunt converted.
The Welsh almost scored again straight away, but Ronnie Palumbo’s pass when near to the line, missed all targets and flew into touch.
After that, chances were few and far between in the first half. Dan Hindmarsh nearly got Skolars second try, but was held up over the line. From the next play, Gideon Bofao was shoved into touch by an mass of Raiders players when trying to ground in the corner.
Raiders were close to taking the lead on 33 minutes but it ended up being Skolars who regained their advantage. Grant intercepted a stray pass on his own 10 metre line and ran the full 90 metres to score under the sticks. James Barron added the extras and Skolars, with a little bit of good fortune, were 12-6 up at half-time.
Only good defence prevented Raiders from scoring early in the second half with Rowland Kaye short by centimetres on the final tackle of their first set after the restart.
They did level ten minutes in when Dalton Desmond-Walker went over from close range and Hunt converted, but the scores weren’t even for long. Seven minutes later, Sam Grant notched his hat-trick, scoring in the corner, Barron converting well from the touchline.
That was when Skolars showed that they had a little bit extra in the tank than their plucky hosts. Five minutes later, the lead increased further after Omari Caro scored in the corner, this one going unconverted.
They clinched victory with eight minutes remaining. Matthew Ross was held up over the line and Jordan Williams was over from the next play. Barron converted.
But Raiders had the last say. Ronnie Palumbo crashed over in the final minute with Tyler Hunt’s conversion coming five seconds before the hooter.