WHAT A DAY!
By Katie Daunt
Raiders hit the heights of National Two South
HE MAKES no apologies for doing it, but Jordan Reynolds got a little worked up at half time against Bournemouth.
The head coach felt he had no other option.
Promotion was slipping away from his team’s grasp and as everybody - players, coaches, backroom team and committee - had worked so hard to get Raiders to the top of London and SE Premier this winter, he let rip.
Well, as we all know, the tactic worked a treat.
Raiders stirred into life and in front of a magnificent Garenne Stand crowd, promotion to National Two South was achieved.
By the end Raiders had run in five tries, all of which were converted by Owen Thomas, who also slotted home a drop goal, and the deep worry of that opening quarter when Bournemouth forged 13-0 ahead was forgotten.
The ‘Lions’, who qualified for the promotion showdown having finished second in South West Premier, had led 13-7 at the interval at Footes Lane with the opening try of the contest coming from Freddie Gleadowe.
But the home side surged into a 35-16 lead after 64 minutes and although Gleadowe touched down once more for the experienced Chapel Gate outfit they failed to make any more inroads as Guernsey were promoted to the fourth tier for the first time in their history.
Raiders had begun poorly, weighed down by the occasion. But then they sparked into life, a well-worked team try scored by Anthony Armstrong in the left-hand corner got them going and after the break Raiders turned it on.
The second half had barely started as two quickfire tries from props Sam Steventon and Layton Batiste set them on course.
But it was Armstrong, surely the most improved player of the season and a contender for overall club player of the season, that had set the tone.
His two tries raised the Garenne Stand roof.
The Lions played their full part in a cracking match and it was they who came flying out of the blocks, with centre Gleadowe barging over from close range in the fifth minute with Grant Hancox adding the extras.
They deservedly built on that lead over the next 25 minutes with Hancox kicking two penalties.
The Guernsey scrum were dominant, but other than that they were distinctly ordinary by their own high standards and the big crowd were biting their nails.
But five minutes before half-time a neat interchange between Jones and Sam Whitehead left an overlap that Armstrong exploited
Thomas kicked the conversion and Guernsey were back in the game.
Straight after the break Raiders were awarded a penalty deep inside the Bournemouth 22 and the recently introduced Malcolm Barnes took a quick tap to get them near the line before the forwards did the rest, with Steventon getting the touchdown.
Soon after Batiste repeated the trick, this after Nick Merrien had made a super grab at full stretch from a 5m line-out to set up the drive.
On the hour mark a perfectly weighted grubber kick from Thomas found Armstrong to challenge for and having hacked ahead, dived on his second nudge with the boot for a memorable score.
Then came the clincher.
Centre Jason Batiste, who had come in for the injured BC, picked a line through the Bournemouth defence and with just one more defender to beat, he slipped the pass to his supporting centre partner Jones to score.
Bournemouth managed a consolation try for Bournemouth but Thomas kicked a drop goal while a penalty advantage was being played and the gap was back to 15 points.
The game was won.
Guernsey Raiders: Steventon, Ceillam, L. Batiste, Hillier, Merrien, Martin, Hill, Horrocks, K. Brown, Thomas, J. Batiste, Jones, Armstrong, Sayer, Whitehead. Replacements: Craine, Skovronek, Le Cocq, Barnes.
Bournemouth: Napier, Manning, Firetto, Treloar, Hennings, Sharp, Bennett, Rees, Hardcastle, Hancox, Chislett, Gleadowe, Stewart, Everett-Bolter, Kirkpatrick. Replacements: Fraser, Roberts, Sutherland, Macdonald.