Guernsey director of rugby Jordan Reynolds was philosophical in defeat, saying ‘we’ll chalk this one down as lessons learnt’, after a game in which his much-changed side found themselves playing into the wind for the vast majority of the 80 minutes on a very heavy pitch and had to cope with the first-half loss of hooker Dan Morgan, who had come into the starting XV at the 11th hour following the withdrawal of Tom Ceillam with a neck injury.
‘Henley were really deserving of the win and the points they scored, but there were still some positives,’ Reynolds said.
‘We took over a relatively young squad and only one of our senior leadership group was there on the day, so others had to step up to the mark and they did that.
‘We just lacked in that physicality part of the game, although most of the guys put in a real big shift – the effort was there.’
Unusually, Guernsey were on the Southampton flight on Saturday morning having swapped with St Jacques Vikings, who had been due to play Henley Seconds but did not make the trip due to the Gatwick delays caused by Storm Eunice.
Having had their electricity supply reconnected by 10am, Henley were able to host the game at their own ground in awful conditions on a pitch thick with mud and the ball becoming like a bar of soap, which prevented both sides from producing the running game that they aspire to.
It took the hosts over 20 minutes to break the deadlock, with Norville going over in the corner.
Cook added a penalty to make it an eight-point lead before Guernsey lost Morgan, who was stretchered off with concussion, to be replaced by Jacob Pinkney, which meant the remaining front-rower had to contribute more minutes than Reynolds would have liked.
The margin was still eight at the interval, but to rub salt into Raiders’ wounds, the wind really picked up and changed direction for the second half and they had the ominous task of having to try to run the ball clear rather than kick.
Henley took the game to their visitors and scored two unconverted tries in quick succession through Wood and Crow.
Raiders had their moments in attack, while their defence was impressive at times, but the Hawks eventually managed to score the bonus-point fourth try thanks to Wood.
‘The ball definitely did not bounce our way. Henley were the better side, but they got the luck too,’ Reynolds said.
‘We went into the wind in the first half then came out for the second and it had switched, so we were running into the wind for 80 minutes – it was a head-scratcher – and in those conditions it was probably a 14-point wind in both halves.
‘If we’d had the wind in the second half, it would have made a difference, but we would have had to do other things as well to get something from the game.’
While the coach added that he could not remember the last time his team finished a league game without scoring a point, he emphasised that ‘it’s not panic stations or anything like that’.
‘On the last play of the game we went from our 5m line nearly the full length of the pitch and came very close to scoring, so it’s encouraging that we were still trying right up to the end.’