Raiders are told to keep their cool
THE Raiders promotion push will be derailed if ill-discipline becomes a habit, warns their coach.
Second-placed Guernsey host London Irish Wild Geese at Footes Lane tomorrow targeting a bonus-point victory to keep the pressure on London & South-East Premier leaders Rochford Hundred, who are two points ahead of the chasing pack which also includes Wimbledon.
Since the turn of the year, though, the green-and-whites have been hampered by yellow cards in all of their three games and last week endured a spell down to 13 men in the narrow win at Tunbridge Wells.
Jordan Reynolds acknowledged that his side cannot afford to keep losing men to the sin bin or worse.
‘We had a couple of yellows early doors this season but then went eight or nine games unscathed,’ he said.
‘Since Christmas we have come back a little bit unsettled, I’m not too sure why, maybe it was a little bit of added pressure being No. 1 coming into the new year.
‘It is something we need to correct. We gave away a lot of penalties last week – all of which I had no problem with in terms of the decisions – and that’s fuelling the frustration among the players, so we are our own worst enemy at the moment.
‘We need to settle the ship a little bit this weekend – try to pick up five points with an error-free and disciplined performance.’
In their one change to the match-day squad from last week’s win at Tunbridge Wells, Raiders welcome back local academy product Tom Teasdale to their midfield after injury.
His return at inside centre sees Owen Thomas shift to fly-half while Joe Andresen moves to the wing.
‘It has been a lengthy time off for Tom since he tore his hamstring, so hopefully he can settle in quickly. We are not expecting the world from him, but it is good for us that he is back because it gives us different options.
‘Joe plays really well at 10 and he and Tom have worked well together in that 10-12 combination, but putting Joe, Anthony Armstrong and Luke Sayer in that back three gives us our three fastest guys there and London Irish kick perhaps 30-40% more than any other team in the league, so our selection shows what we are shaping up for – when we are returning those kicks we want to do it with interest.’
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While the personnel in the pack remains the same, the props are once again rotated with Sam Steventon and Layton Batiste returning to the starting XV.
‘The rotation worked well last week, to be fair, and it gave an opportunity to Cameron Craine and Jacob Pinkney to start,’ Reynolds said.
‘Crainey had a really strong performance in the first half and Jacob was doing well too, although his yellow card was a bit of a downer at the time.
‘We face a different type of battle this week and anyone trying to scrap their way out of relegation issues are going to be fighting hard.’
As is indicative of the division, Wild Geese have a habit of giving everyone they face a good game but they currently sit 10th with five wins out of 17.
Earlier this season Raiders won 20-3 away at Irish in a mudbath.
‘There are a couple of new names on their teamsheet, so they have obviously brought a couple of players in to help them move up the table,’ said Reynolds.
‘They have been competitive, they have just struggled to close out games. That could be down to a couple of issues such as fitness or, probably more likely, combinations taking time to gel.
‘I can see them winning a few games over the rest of the season, we just have to make sure it is not against us.’
The Guernsey coach added that his squad have identified the need to start games quicker than they have been so far in 2020.
‘We have been honest in meetings and said we have achieved nothing yet. We desperately need the five points from this game to do that we need to start well, compete well and finish well.
‘Irish are a solid outfit and we had to defend well against them last time, in fact it was one of our better performances in tough conditions.
‘It will be another massive battle for us up front and we’ll have to dig in really deep to find the weaker points against a good side.’
Raiders v. London Irish Wild Geese kicks off at 3.15pm at Footes Lane as part of a triple header with Guernsey Raiders Ladies facing London Irish at 12.30pm and then St Jacques Vikings take on Eastbourne at 5pm.
Raiders 1-15: Steveton, Ceillam, Batiste, Webb, Merrien, Hillier, Rice, Horrocks, O’Connor, Thomas, Andresen, Teasdale, M. Armstrong, A. Armstrong, L. Sayer. Replacements: Pinkney, Craine, Barker.