Guernsey Press

Raiders get a rest ahead of crucial March triple-header

RAIDERS will reset and recuperate ready for an assault on three pivotal in March.

Fullback Callum Roberts scored Guernsey's third try at Barnes on Saturday. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 32918094)

That was director of rugby Jordan Reynolds’ message after Guernsey’s second successive game against a top-three title-chasing side ended in a 36-21 defeat at Barnes on Saturday, leaving them 11th in the table.

However, with a game in hand on all of the sides outside of the top six barring winless bottom-side North Walsham, the Raiders head coach was philosophical about the back-to-back losses, with his side still only eight points off seventh place.

‘We are only 11 points off the drop zone, which seems like a little bit of space, but with seven games to go there’s not much room for error and we have got an important block coming up after this week’s break against sides around us,’ Reynolds said.

‘The rest has come at a good time for us and we are coming off a block of games where we have picked up 20 points since Christmas, which we would have bitten your arm off for beforehand.

‘We had a really good time at the start of the year and we have come up against two really good sides in the last couple of weeks in Dorking and Barnes where if you are slightly off, you are going to be found out. But we have now got two of the top three out of the way and we can’t be too disappointed in how that whole block has gone.

‘Now we have the chance to get bodies and minds fresh for Westcombe Park in a couple of weeks, which is a big game for us – and there’s a little bit of heat between the clubs.’

It was a familiar story for Raiders on the road on Saturday as they found themselves with a big deficit to make up at half-time as Barnes established a 21-7 lead at the interval.

‘There were some good parts to our game, but we got ourselves stuck by making too many errors in the first half when we failed to exit three times and we basically gifted them 21 points – if you take that out of the game, it was fairly even,’ Reynolds said.

‘We actually camped on their line for about five minutes at the start of the game and came away with nothing, although we literally had points on offer.

‘But Barnes are a good side with quality across the park. They got us into our own 22 and when we failed to exit properly, they capitalised because we gave them opportunities to score.’

Anthony Armstrong’s try, which was converted by Tom Teasdale, briefly had Raiders back on level terms after James Gallagher had opened the scoring for Barnes, but further tries from Gallagher and Jacques Birch gave the hosts their 14-point lead at the break.

Birch got a second try to extend the lead in the second half before wing Ethan Smith responded for Guernsey.

The see-saw nature of the period continued with Conan Osborne’s try for the home side then cancelled out by Callum Roberts scoring for the visitors, but unfortunately Raiders were unable to conjure a fourth try that could have brought them a couple of bonus points.

‘It has been an Achilles’ heel of ours this season – we have got one of the poorer records in picking up losing bonus points,’ said Reynolds.

‘We are always there or thereabouts, but we missed a couple of kicks to touch in the last 10 minutes on Saturday and it’s little moments like that which are the difference.

‘We are not a million miles away, but we have to eradicate the errors, which are all of our own making. We need to have a little bit of calm in those moments.’

Matt Creber and Dom Rice were among those who impressed once again for Raiders, while the backline also looked a threat, according to their coach.

‘We utilised what ball we had, to be fair. We had some good moments and we were a bit unfortunate not to score more.

‘We had maybe 30% possession, but that was just down to us turning the ball over too quickly. We would have created more opportunities if we could have gone on a bit longer in our phase play.’

Raiders return to action on Saturday 9 March when they host seventh-placed Westcombe Park.

After that they travel to Canterbury before North Walsham visit Footes Lane the weekend before Easter.