Raiders 'in a good place' to start campaign
A TITANTIC tussle has left Jordan Reynolds upbeat despite defeat.
The Guernsey director of rugby saw his side lose their second and final pre-season warm-up 35-12 on Saturday against a very strong Rotherham Titans outfit, but coupling that display with that of the win over Havant a week earlier, he believes his side have what it takes to improve on their ninth-placed finish of last season when the new National Two East campaign kicks off on Saturday 2 September away to Henley Hawks.
‘I’m optimistic on where we are,’ Reynolds said.
‘From our two pre-season games, if we put together all the good stuff we did, we have got a good performance in there, so we are in a pretty good place at the moment.
‘We will be going into the Henley game more on the side of pleased to start the season than we were last year.
‘We have got a good squad and we have made some strides in what we are trying to do.
‘We know as a squad we are going to struggle depth-wise compared to others, we always do. Most teams in our league have squads of 35-40, we are more around 25-30, but the guys we have got we are pleased with and we are making good progress going into the new season.’
Unsurprisingly given the pedigree of Rotherham Rugby Club, who have enjoyed seasons in the Premiership during the professional era and were in the Championship as recently as 2018, Titans proved formidable opposition, but Raiders did take the lead thanks to a Brad Webb try.
Two converted tries for the visitors saw them take a 14-5 advantage into the interval and they extended their lead in the second half, but Hugo Culverhouse replied with the second Raiders converted by Dan Rice.
‘It was about what we could get out of the game with Rotherham turning up with two forward packs and rotating them, with all those forwards being quality players – it was almost like playing Jersey in old Siam matches,’ said Reynolds.
‘Rotherham want to get back competing at where they believe they belong and they have acquired themselves players to get them back into National One. The pack they had here would dominate all National One packs.
‘It was certainly tough. We were probably giving up 20kg per player in the forwards.
‘But first half I was pleased. I thought our discipline was good and we defended well. It was only really two rolling mauls in the game that made the difference.
‘In the second half, the amount of tackling we had to do started to tell. We could not win a scrum or a line-out against that pack, so you have to defend more and we did drop off more tackles as the game went on, but that’s to be expected in those circumstances.
‘There were pleasing moments, though.
‘We are not going to face a pack that powerful this year. That was a good test for us, but we are not having to deal with that week in, week out.’
Raiders also had the opportunity to give game-time to their two new props in JP Phelan, who came on at tight-headfor 20 minutes mid-game, and Jamie Dunn, who played the last 25 minutes at loose-head.
‘That’s their first hit-out for the Raiders and they could not have been more thrown in at the deep end with the quality of that Titans pack.
‘I am sure they are pretty happy to get some game-time against a good side who put us under a lot of pressure.’