‘We must be better’ says Reynolds following Raiders defeat

RAIDERS went off script on Friday night and they paid the price with a 20-15 defeat.

Guernsey try-scorer Tom Ceillam on the charge against Bury St Edmunds. (Picture by Martin Gray, 30631434)
Guernsey try-scorer Tom Ceillam on the charge against Bury St Edmunds. (Picture by Martin Gray, 30631434)

Bury St Edmunds gave a lesson in converting pressure into points on an evening when Guernsey had ample opportunity to overturn a five-point half-time deficit in the second half but only came away with the meagre consolation of a losing bonus point via a successful Joe Andresen penalty with the clock having already ticked into the red.

Despite being a long way from their best, for all they still threatened in the second half, a return of three points from the boot from 42-plus minutes playing with the advantage of the chilly wind was measly and Jordan Reynolds emphasised that.

‘Poor... it was a shame. We talked about where we were against Clifton and trying to get even close to that level but I don’t think we were even 10 % of what we were,’ said the Raiders director of rugby.

‘First half I think we had 14 missed tackles whereas last week we had only 12 in total – it just shows that we weren’t there. Then we chased the game after that and it was too late.

‘We had five opportunities to score in that half and we did not convert one.’

The disappointment of the second half overshadowed a high-octane first 40 minutes played out to the backdrop of a glorious full moon with both sides looking to move the ball at speed.

Talking of speed, nothing or no-one was as quick as BSE left-wing Ciaran Leeson, whose blistering pace led to the first try in just the third minute at the culmination of a breathless opening sequence.

It was his fellow wing Levi Roper who won the ball for his side with an impressive turnover after a promising start from the hosts and the ball was moved through the hands out to Leeson on the left who turned on the afterburners.

He got to within a couple of metres of the corner when Guernsey fullback Callum Roberts came across in a last-ditch attempt to make the covering tackle and caught his opponent high, leading to the award of a penalty try and a yellow card for Roberts.

Raiders came under more pressure while down to 14, but managed to repel their visitors for the majority of the 10 minutes until Charlie Reed opted to kick for goal from a penalty and increase the lead to 10 points.

Once Guernsey were back up to a full complement, they halved the deficit within six minutes.

From a penalty deep inside the BSE 22, Andresen kicked to touch and the resultant catch-and-drive ended with the familiar sight of the green-and-white pack piling over the line and Tom Ceillam coming up with the ball.

The first quarter had been frenetic fare but the match became stop-start for a short period as injuries started to mount and Raiders lost powerhouse Hugo Culverhouse after 22min.

The disruption seemed to affect the home side more than BSE, who soon built momentum once more, and although Reed missed his next penalty attempt from distance, a minute or so later Leeson was demonstrating the sort of sprinting ability you would expect to see on the track surrounding the pitch during the summer to show Guernsey a clean pair of heels and score the try his individual display deserved.

The conversion took BSE 12 points ahead and Guernsey desperately needed a response before half-time.

They got it.

In similar fashion to the solo try he scored against Clifton just six days earlier, fly-half Andresen took advantage of an overeager defensive line to slip through a gap and put Guernsey on the attack.

This time he needed support and he received it from Oscar Baird, who appeared on his left shoulder to take the offload and sprint to the line.

Andresen added the extras with the last kick of the half and Guernsey were right back in the game.

Unfortunately, though, they failed to capitalise.

Much of the excitement of the opening 40 failed to materialise after the turnaround and it took until the 58th minute for Anthony Armstrong to rouse the crowd by barging through a tackle and then giving himself his own kick to chase, but the way in which he quickly pulled up with cramp in his thigh proved to be somewhat prophetic of how the Raiders attacks would continually come to nothing in the final quarter.

On a rare attack of their own just after the hour, BSE crucially extended their lead to eight points as Reed slotted over a simple penalty, after which their defence put in a great shift to made a couple of successful stands on their own goal-line in the last quarter-of-an-hour.

Arguably the closest Guernsey came to scoring was an extraordinary flowing move that Armstrong started from behind his own goal-line and involved Andresen, Ciaran McGann, Doug Horrocks and Roberts among others, which ended in BSE having to concede a 5m scrum, but even that came to nothing.

It all made captain Lewis Hillier’s decision to take the three points on offer in the 82nd minute to secure the losing bonus point a simple one, even if it was scant consolation.

‘We are such a better team than that, it’s just disappointing.

‘We’ve had a really good conversion rate in probably the last 10 games we played and to be honest a lot of the stuff we were doing there is not what we practise – the boys just got into a bit of a panic.

‘I know we made some changes but it was just poor. We couldn’t even get through our first three sets. When we pushed the ball wide we lost possession and then frustration crept in.

‘We’ve got to be better. It does sit with the coaches – if the team wasn’t prepared then obviously we didn’t prepare them well enough, but honestly I don’t have an answer for some of the performances out there because some of them were just completely off.’

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