‘Colossal battle’ is on the cards
A BIG GAME requires a big performance and Raiders have a couple of big names back to help them achieve that tomorrow in their highly-anticipated top-of-the-table clash against Rochford Hundred.
Doug Horrocks and Anthony Armstrong return to the Guernsey starting XV at Footes Lane as the London & South-East Premier leaders host the only side to have beaten them so far this season.
With the other title contenders, Wimbledon, having suffered a surprise defeat at Sevenoaks last week, Raiders are the only side in the division to have lost just once, but they currently sit a solitary point ahead of Rochford.
The last time the two sides met, the Essex outfit registered their 52nd straight league win with a 43-27 victory.
Since then, though, Rochford have lost at Wimbledon and were on the wrong end of a major upset against CS Stags 1863, while Guernsey have gone on an 11-game winning streak.
However, the whole dynamic of the league table will change once again tomorrow, whatever the result.
‘It’s another massive game for us. They are all pretty big at the moment, but it is a huge one for us,’ said Raiders coach Jordan Reynolds.
‘The Wimbledon result [last week] was interesting to say the least. It was as surprising as the Rochford-CS result and it sends a warning shot over the bow of all the teams. But that’s the competition and it just goes to show that you’ve really got to be on the money to beat anyone.
‘That result makes us outright first if you like, but that can be shortlived if we don’t perform this weekend and it is going to be a colossal battle.
‘There is going to be a huge amount of emotion running through it and it’s up to us coaches to manage that. We need to keep the players level-headed.
‘It’s fantastic to have it at home and to have that support. There have been some really big games this season. The one at Wimbledon away, where if we had lost the competition would look a lot different right now, obviously springs to mind, but this automatically becomes huge largely because of that result and it’s how we manage our professionalism and stay level-headed that is important.’
Reynolds reported that this week’s team meeting revealed that motivation for tomorrow’s contest varies from wanting to right the wrongs of the last meeting with ambitious Rochford to simply winning a game to stay top of the table.
For himself personally, he said ‘it’s a little bit of both’.
‘When we went to them it did not pan out the way we wanted, so the motivation for all of us has been building since then, but there has got to be a lot more clear thinking than just going out looking for revenge,’ Reynolds said.
‘There are parts of our game that we did not do well against Hertford last week and we have to do them well against Rochford, that is what we’ve been focusing on.
‘We are a different club to Rochford and we understand that. They will know it’s a really big occasion and they are still talking about wanting to be promoted for the third year in a row so winning this game would put them in the driving seat.
‘I can only presume they, like everybody else, will have had a few injuries creep into their squad by now, but by this stage of the season it comes down to a lot more than what you are selecting from, it’s about what you have experienced in the league to this point and how you’ve developed from it.
‘Rochford should have learnt from their couple of losses much more than from their wins – I know we certainly did. Our loss against them – and it was only at the end of September – was enough to turnaround our season because we have really knuckled down since that day to make sure we keep improving.’
The Guernsey coach is delighted to have Horrocks, Armstrong and Brad Webb back available and the management team are formulating a game-plan according to what they expect to be dry conditions.
‘We feel our defensive structure at the moment is good and we understand what we are trying to do in attack,’ said Reynolds.
‘Rochford have a big pack who are very mobile and strong so it’s going to be a great challenge for our forwards.’
He then gave an insight into the current mentality within the Guernsey squad that came from last week’s narrow 14-8 victory over Hertford – a tight contest that could prove extremely valuable in the immediate aftermath of the Christmas break.
‘We want to have a 95% tackle completion rate, which is almost impossible over 80 minutes, but last week we made 80 tackles, only missed five and three of those were for zero gains, so Hertford only twice made gains through missed tackles for a total of 6m.
‘Some of the players said afterwards that “we never felt like we were in danger of losing” and it’s great that players are saying that. It’s credit to them for how they have built throughout the season.
‘Hertford were devastated they lost, but our fitness was still strong in that last quarter whereas they, understandably, started to drop off.
‘I think it’s because the two clubs know each other so well that we are so closely matched when we face each other.’
Guernsey Raiders v. Rochford Hundred kicks off at 2pm tomorrow at Footes Lane.
Steventon, Ceillam, L. Batiste, Hillier, Merrien, Raymond, Rice, Horrocks, O’Connor, Andresen, J. Batiste, Thomas, M. Armstrong, A. Armstrong, Sayer. Replacements (from): Craine, Pinkney, Webb, Barker.