Hillier and Smiler return for Raiders

RAIDERS welcome back a couple of experienced heads as they go in search of their first win of the year tomorrow.

Jordan Smiler returns at No 8 for Raiders for tomorrow’s home clash with Tonbridge Juddians. (Picture by Luke Le Prevost, 31533051)
Jordan Smiler returns at No 8 for Raiders for tomorrow’s home clash with Tonbridge Juddians. (Picture by Luke Le Prevost, 31533051)

Captain Lewis Hillier and former Super Rugby player Jordan Smiler make a timely return to the Guernsey team as they prepare to front up against one of the biggest packs in National Two East as Tonbridge Juddians visit Footes Lane for the first time in four years.

‘Lewis has had some time off and he looks refreshed,’ said Guernsey director of rugby Jordan Reynolds.

‘We were probably missing him in the last couple of weeks, the same with Jordan Smiler, but it has been a good learning experience for our younger guys as well, especially in the leadership roles.’

He added that Dom Rice, who has led the side in the first two games of 2023 in Hillier’s absence, show how much he learnt in the role from week to week.

‘Captaining a rugby side is very different to a lot of other sports because there is so much to articulate on the pitch about every decision and Dom is definitely getting there – it’s a learning curve for him.’

The sole change in the starting backline from last week’s defeat at North Walsham sees Sam Boyland come in at scrum-half with Charlie Simmonds switching to the bench.

‘We just felt Sam, when he came on for 30 minutes in the North Walsham game, really sparked things for us, which was promising, and we want to try and reward that this week,’ Reynolds said.

‘It is not that Charlie has done anything wrong, it’s about building up competition and keeping things fresh.

‘Every player wants to start and those two offer something slightly different in the way they play.

‘Charlie has been performing well this season, he is improving every week and it is just about building that consistency in his game. He will definitely be looking to make his mark when he gets his opportunity on Saturday.’

The wet weather has continued to hamper Raiders in their training with the club pitch at Footes Lane being waterlogged in recent weeks.

‘We were in the gym on Tuesday and we have done a couple of little sessions on the hockey pitches, but our training has been miserable since mid-December because we have not been able to get on the pitch, so we have struggled to get any defensive or attacking shape work going,’ said Reynolds.

He added that tomorrow’s visitors Tonbridge Juddians, who sit three places above Raiders in the table, having won 10 of their 15 games including a 20-10 victory over Guernsey in October, will provide his side with ‘one of our more physical encounters’.

‘They have got a really big forward pack – they towered over us the last time we played them,’ Reynolds said.

‘Physically, I thought we matched them, but we were not clinical enough on the day.

‘Coming off the back of last week, which was probably one of our less physical games, we are going to have to step it up this week against TJs.

‘Their season has been a little bit hit and miss week on week. They faltered against Bury St Edmunds [and lost 31-10] but then put in such a strong performance against a good side in Old Albanian last week to win 31-5, which was a tremendous result.

‘They are probably trying to find consistency because no doubt they’ve got the talent and we are a similar story.’

  • Raiders v Tonbridge Juddians kicks off at 1.30pm tomorrow at Footes Lane.

Raiders team

Sam Steventon, Tom Ceillam, Charlie Currie, Lewis Hillier, Brad Webb, Matt Creber, Dom Rice, Jordan Smiler, Sam Boyland, Owen Thomas, Luke Sayer, Ciaran McGann, Ethan Smith, Anthony Armstrong, Charlie Davies. Replacements: Jacob Pinkney, Dan Morgan, Hugo Culverhouse, Charlie Simmonds, Callum Roberts.

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