Raiders' risk-for-reward plan as title-chasing Barnes come to town
Running rugby might not be the order of the day tomorrow but whenever Guernsey meet Barnes it usually throws up a real humdinger.
‘It’s going to be a game for the purists,’ said Raiders director of rugby Jordan Reynolds.
‘Every scrum, every maul, every tackle is going to be a little bit different,’ added a coach whose side are coming off the back of a chastening 59-14 loss against National Two East leaders Dorking and now face the team second in the table.
Admittedly, Guernsey have had three weeks to recover from that defeat while domestic rugby took a rest as the men’s World Cup reached its conclusion, but it means that Reynolds and his troops have been stewing on that result for longer than they would have wanted.
‘It’s not the ideal scenario, especially from my own personal point of view after losing that game at Dorking so heavily, because after something like that all I want to do is quickly look to right the wrongs of that performance, but on the other hand having that break allowed a few of our guys to recover from some knocks,’ he said.
‘Not everyone has made it back, though. Matt Creber has not recovered from a shoulder injury from that last game. It does not look too bad, but with the quality we have around in the back row at the moment, we can afford to give him another week or two.’
Creber’s absence gives Hugo Culverhouse the chance to start at flanker, while Liam Welch comes onto the bench.
Guernsey Raiders v Barnes kicks off at 3pm on Saturday at Footes Lane. At 12.30pm, Guernsey Raiders Ladies face Aylesford while St Jacques Vikings take on United Services Portsmouth at the same time at Les Ozouets.
In the back-line there are returns for Dan Rice and Ethan Smith.
Obviously, the weather will play a big part in how both sides approach the game.
‘In these conditions, how we aim to kick is not just like a normal game. If the wind direction tends to push the ball towards the sideline, you could be putting yourself under a lot of pressure if you don’t get your kicks right,’ Reynolds said.
‘It is about minimising the mistakes in your own half and good kicking to get into the opposition’s half. We really have to kick accurately, but we are willing to play high-risk rugby to get big rewards.
‘It is going to be one of those games where the ball is not going to be heading to the outsides very much, but you have got to be able to win games in all sorts of weather and we have shown in previous seasons we can do that in the wet.’
He added that the visitors have played a Footes Lane many times over the years, so will know what to expect in terms of conditions.
Barnes come into the game with six wins from their seven games, with the only loss coming at the hands of leaders Dorking, and that by just two points.
‘Ultimately, they are not second in the table by fluke and the quality of their squad has increased over the last couple of years,’ Reynolds said.
‘But we have got a lot riding on this one ourselves because we did really underperform against Dorking and the players and us coaches want a response to that.
‘What we are looking for this weekend is a really big performance. We know we have got to be really physical against Barnes and they will pose a very tough challenge, but at the same time we have to be excited by the opportunity to play a top side like Barnes.
‘To beat them, we have to be outstanding and up for the fight.’
Guernsey Raiders team
Sam Steventon, James Burger, Charlie Currie, Lewis Hillier, Brad Webb, Hugo Culverhouse, Dom Rice, Carter Hackett, Charlie Simmonds, Dan Rice, Ethan Smith, Ciaran McGann, Dan Barnes, Tom Teasdale, Callum Roberts. Replacements: Phil Le Noury, Jamie Dunn, Liam Welch, Sam Boyland, Niall McGann.