Favourites fallible

THE ODDS might be against Raiders winning on their first road trip of 2022 tomorrow but anything can happen in a two-horse race.

Oscar Baird, pictured, will be switching from the back row to the second row to cover for injuries tomorrow when Raiders visit Esher. (Picture by Martin Gray, 30419321)
Oscar Baird, pictured, will be switching from the back row to the second row to cover for injuries tomorrow when Raiders visit Esher. (Picture by Martin Gray, 30419321)

Just down the road from Sandown Park race course, which will be hosting one of its biggest meetings of the jumps season at the same time, Guernsey face one of the biggest obstacles of their campaign as they travel to second-placed Esher, who are arguably the National Two South title favourites.

After winning their first three games of the season, Esher went through a minor blip of two defeats and a draw in the space of three weeks, but they quickly got back on track and have won their last 11 matches.

They are currently just one point behind leaders Clifton, who have played two games more.

However, Esher have won their two home games since the turn of the year by only five and three points, against Dings and Leicester Lions respectively, and Guernsey’s director of rugby believes there are some chinks in the opposition’s armour and that his side could exploit potential weaknesses.

‘Esher have been on a good run and they have the ability to score a lot of points, but they have had some close games,’ Jordan Reynolds said.

‘They play a pretty open and expansive game and we feel that sometimes they overplay their hand a bit.

‘If we have no expectation on us, it gives us the perfect platform to perform. We can throw caution to the wind and play the expansive game we have looked to implement in recent weeks.’

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Guernsey have made numerous changes to their squad with several players unavailable either due to illness, injury and being away on what was due to be a bye weekend.

Captain Lewis Hillier, fellow lock Brad Webb, in-form centre Ciaran McGann and flying fullback Joe Andresen are among those absent.

However, following last week’s postponement because of a front-row shortage, Reynolds is just pleased to be back in action and is also looking forward to seeing replacement Michael Jamieson in competitive action for the first time.

‘He came away with us for the Westcombe Park game in pre-season, but he got injured and he has had a long wait due to a long rehab,’ the coach said.

‘He played for Vikings a couple of weeks ago and we have been excited about seeing him for a long time.

‘It is also good to have Dale Rutledge back on the team-sheet and we will be looking to give him a fair bit of game time.

‘We have made a lot of changes but we still feel that we can compete and this is almost a free hit for us because there is no pressure on us.

‘We are looking forward to it and not cringing at the prospect.’

Guernsey Raiders provisional team

Sam Steventon, Tom Ceillam, Charlie Currie, Tom Creed, Oscar Baird, James Burger, Dom Rice, Doug Horrocks, Charlie Simmonds, Owen Thomas, Callum Roberts, Charlie Davies, Matt Armstrong, Anthony Armstrong, Dan Rice. Replacements: Dan Morgan, Michael Smith, Matt Thomas, Dale Rutledge, Michael Jamieson.

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