Guernsey have never been higher in the RFU ladder after their 26-19 victory at Barnes on Saturday lifted them above Clifton, who lost 49-12 away to unbeaten Redruth in a big clash of two of the pre-season title favourites.
Jordan Reynolds is understandably pleased with his side’s form that has seen them win five games on the trot after the opening weekend defeat to current league leaders Worthing, but warned that there is a lot of hard work ahead.
‘We seem to be travelling OK, but it will be really key for us now to pick up some home wins,’ said the Raiders director of rugby, whose side have only played once at Footes Lane so far.
‘It will be particularly important this week when we face Henley Hawks. This will be our toughest encounter so far – they look like a proper side,’ he added of a team who have responded to the tragic loss of their player David Hyde on the opening weekend with three straight victories.
Guernsey’s latest victory came in what their coach described as ‘one of the more physical games we have played in’.
‘Both teams were really up for it, I think we just took our opportunities a little more than they were able to,’ Reynolds said.
‘It was definitely the right result, I don’t think anyone would argue with that, but they did push us mentally and physically.
‘When these two sides meet, it wouldn’t matter if one of us was near the bottom and the other near the top, it is also close and hard-fought.
‘I felt that there was perhaps a little more niggle in the game than usual and more emotion in both teams throughout the game – even the ref commented on it afterwards.’
Barnes made a bright start and opened the scoring as they capitalised on a few early mistakes by Raiders, but the visitors quickly moved up a gear and after fullback Joe Andresen had touched down to get them on the scoreboard, two tries from Ethan Smith put them 19-7 ahead at half-time.
The hosts also scored the first try of the second half to reduce the deficit, but Charlie Currie powered over to restore Guernsey’s two-try cushion which lasted until the dying stages of the game.
‘Barnes played pretty well, but in areas I thought we were excellent.
‘Defensively in the first half we were a powerhouse – the work-rate was spot on. We said beforehand that the team with the best defence would win the game as they are never particularly high-scoring matches.
‘One area we really need to work on, though, is our discipline. When we start looking at taking on Henley Hawks, we should be aiming for no more than six-to-eight penalties, at the moment we are probably double that.
‘It is a fine line and players are trying to play on the edge but this is a higher league and, no offence intended to London & South-East Premier, now if we give away five penalties it is two-tries worth because teams will punish you.’
On a positive note, Reynolds was pleased that his side’s tries came through different areas of attack and picked out one of his flankers for special praise.
‘Dom Rice probably had his best game for us – he has been right on the money in the last couple of weeks defensively.
‘In general, people are probably around 7/10, which is good.’
However, Raiders did not emerged unscathed from the match with both Owen Thomas and Ciaran McGann suffering injuries that will be assessed this week.