Canterbury are the visitors to Footes Lane tomorrow afternoon for the second act of a senior double-header with St Jacques Vikings providing the curtain-raiser, but after last week’s win at Rochford Hundred, Guernsey director of rugby Jordan Reynolds wants to string a decent set of results together to progress up the National Two East table rather than just concentrate on giving their fans some festive cheers.
‘For us, we are just really hungry to chase these points down to take us up the ladder,’ said Reynolds, before adding that victory this weekend would set them up nicely ahead of travelling to Bury St Edmunds, who are currently two places and six points above them in the table, next week.
However, he was also quick to emphasise the competitive nature of the league and although Canterbury are three spots below Raiders, he pointed out that they recently had a bonus-point win over Rochford too.
‘Canterbury are a team we have not beaten yet,’ Reynolds said.
‘We drew 38-all at home with them last season after being 21-points down.
‘This week we will need a massive defensive effort.
‘They have got some big ball-carriers, a big pack.’
That defensive aspect proved something of a recurring theme with the Guernsey coach as he looked forward to the game.
‘Our main focus in training has been purely around defence.
‘We know our attack is there because we are averaging four or five tries per game, but defensively we have started leaking points in the last three or four or even five games, which has been disappointing, especially at times when we have been in control.
‘So this week there has been a big focus on our defensive structures, making sure we are picking up numbers early.
‘If we can set quicker than they can set their attack, we can get off the line quicker.’
Once again Raiders have an extensive list of unavailabilities to contend with, with Owen Thomas likely out until the new year following the hamstring injury he sustained at Rochford.
‘Owen, we think, will probably be out for three weeks minimum which will push him past the end of this year and that’s a shame because I thought he was playing really well against Rochford,’ said the coach.
Thomas’ absence means that Charlie Davies reverts to fly-half having started at fullback last week.
Anthony Armstrong will move into the No 15 shirt and teenager Oscar Bailey is in line to make a belated debut on the wing.
‘Oscar has been performing well in the games he has had for Vikings and it’s good to see the development process is there,’ said Reynolds.
‘We have tried to get him in a couple of times, but it has not happened for various reasons.
‘This week is a good opportunity for him to come in and I’m sure he’ll be excited to play in front of a home crowd.’
A plus for Raiders is that Malcolm Barnes is fit enough to take a spot among the replacements after he was injured during the warm-up of the Sevenoaks game.
‘We are fortunate to have Malcolm back this week ahead of schedule. He has responded well to his rehab.
‘The reason we are not starting him is more to do with time management because we have seen guys get two or three weeks training after injury, get put in to start and get through about 60 minutes before the fatigue sets in an injuries occur again.
‘We can manage Malcolm better from the bench.’
Mention of that Sevenoaks game also brought back some bad memories of the last Footes Lane outing for Raiders when a coast-to-coast try for the visitors from the last play of the game denied them victory.
‘Picking up the away win [last week] has really centred us to right the wrong of Sevenoaks,’ Reynolds said.
‘That is still lingering for a lot of us – not weighing us down, but spurring us on to make those improvements.’
Guernsey Raiders v Canterbury kicks off at 3pm on Saturday.
Raiders team: Steventon, Ceillam, Pinkney, Hillier, Webb, Creber, Rice, Smiler, Simmonds, Davies, Bailey, McGann, Smith, Boyland, Armstrong. Replacements: Morgan, Currie, Culverhouse, Batiste, Barnes.