Jordan Reynolds, Raiders’ director of rugby, felt that the 40-17 scoreline was not a fair reflection on the game and although it was a third straight defeat for his men following the losses to league leaders Redruth and Jersey Reds in the Siam Cup, he believes his side showed signs of getting back on track with their performance.
‘I never like to sugar-coat anything and we are certainly not trying to pat ourselves on the back for losing a game, but on the back of a really tough game against Redruth, in which we played well, and then being extremely flat in the Siam against Jersey, it was good to see us back towards where we are aiming to be,’ Reynolds said.
‘Coming off the back of the disappointment of losing the Siam and then having the long journey to Clifton, which is always a hard place to travel to, we came out of the blocks and performed really well, especially in the first half.’
Although they conceded the first try of the game to their Bristol-based hosts, Raiders responded impressively and after Owen Thomas got them on the scoreboard with a penalty, he then converted Joe Andresen’s try, which put the visitors ahead.
In a see-saw first half, the home side retook the lead and forged 19-10 ahead but an intercept try from Matt Armstrong brought Guernsey back within two at the interval.
The younger Armstrong inadvertently collided with the referee early in the second half, which held up play for some time while the official regathered his senses.
Once play resumed, Clifton added a fourth try for the bonus point before kicking a couple of penalties to stretch the lead and then came up with the try of the day to complete the scoring.
However, Guernsey were not without their own chances in the second half and they were attacking at the death, only to be repelled by some excellent home defence.
Reynolds reported that the way his side finished the game on the front foot showed that physically they coped well with the demands of recent weeks, including playing the Siam during a bye week in the league.
‘I thought the corrections we tried to make after the Siam we did during the game – we attacked a lot better, found the outside channels we wanted and we could have easily had 28-30 points at half-time,’ he said.
‘We had a couple of clean line breaks where the last pass just didn’t go to hand.
‘In that first half we scored two tries and probably left another three out there.
‘I do not think the scoreline reflected the match. They managed to score a couple of late tries but I thought the effort from our guys was really good.’
The result brought Clifton level with Guernsey on 32 points, although Raiders are still above their sixth-placed opponents in the table by virtue of having won more games.
‘Clifton were a good side, but it was really do-or-die for them because if they had lost, they were not getting that promotion they are aiming for,’ Reynolds said.
‘The way they celebrated at the end was almost as if they had won the league and I think that shows teams see us as a real threat in this division.
‘Their coach said afterwards that it was probably their best performance of the year.’
Unfortunately, Guernsey lost Hugo Culverhouse in the first half to a shoulder injury that could keep him sidelined for four to six weeks, while Tom Ceillam did not feature in the second half due to an ankle problem.
Guernsey welcome bottom-club Westcliff to Footes Lane this coming Saturday.