RAIDERS EXTEND LEAD
Raiders 27, Tunbridge Wells 11
ANOTHER bonus-try win for the boys and the plus of defeat for big rivals Hertford.
While Raiders’ biggest rivals were ultimately paying for losing a man to a red card early on at Barnes, Lewis Hillier led another storming performance by the Guernsey pack who provided all four try scorers in what was an accomplished, albeit unspectacular win,over a decent side who had come so close to defeating us back in September.
‘I think we started well and then the momentum swung in their favour which is always going to happen,’ said Reynolds later.
‘There were a couple of areas which we were struggling with which we talked about at half time, including allowing them to play in our half.
‘But collectively our defence was outstanding today, the physicality from the boys was second to none against a decent Wells side.
‘I thought Lewis Hillier and Dan Hill played really well, but let’s be honest our pack as a whole really set the tone up front today.’
Raiders took eight minutes to get on the scoreboard with an ‘up-the-jumper’ try from Tom Ceillam in front of the High Performance Gym, although Owen Thomas was unable to convert from the touchline, the try was just the boost the home side needed.
The opening quarter was played at a terrific pace and clearly Tunbridge Wells were a threat across the backs.
The visitors narrowed the deficit when Stand-off Frank Reynolds kicked a close-range penalty but on 23min. Raiders struck another blow from their highly-effective catch-and-drive routine.
Thomas kicked for the corner, Raiders won their lineout and at the end of the rumble towards the line Cameron Craine nudged the ball down and Thomas kicked from wide and Raiders were 12-3 ahead, looking good. That lead might well have been extended had Thomas not just been off radar with another kick to the corner, but the touch judge ruled that his kick to touch was behind the flag and no doubt the visitors breathed a collective sigh of relief at the decision.
Raiders had their own escape just before half time when Reynolds’ penalty landed squarely against the crossbar and fell into welcome home hands and when the game resumed after half-time the visitors pushed hard for the score which would get them back into the game.
For a spell Raiders defended superbly close to their line but then lost concentration as Tunbridge Wells swung the ball wide and fullback Ryan Taylor-Dennehy raced through to score near the Hockey Clubhouse corner.
Reynolds failed to convert, but Raiders had got the wake-up call required and the minutes later restored the nine-point margin with a Craine score from close range that had stemmed from a barnstorming diagonal burst by Ned Brown, who was excellent all afternoon, Thomas kicked from in front of the posts and the lead was now 19-8.
Reynolds pegged Raiders back to eight with a penalty that just had the legs to get over, but on the hour mark Raiders all but put the game to bed, winning their lineout in the far corner and Dale Martin being forced over with minimal resistance, Thomas missed the kick but later added another penalty to complete the scoring fully 20 minutes from the final whistle.
Luke Skovronek got a late run-out as a replacement for the spent Dougie Horrocks, while Sam Steventon was a first half replacement for Layton Batiste who was to return late on.
The result, combined with Barnes’ ultimately convincing win at home to Hertford, sees Raiders now six points clear as they prepare to travel to Hertford next Saturday, but with Barnes and Tring sandwiched between the two sides - each just five points behind of Guernsey - this is a title race that promises to run and run.
Raiders: Craine, Ceillam, Batiste, Hillier, Merrien, Hill, Martin, Horrocks; K. Brown, Thomas, Armstrong, N. Brown, Jones, Sayer, Whitehead.
Replacements: Skovronek, Steventon, Campbell.
Tunbridge Wells: Straeche, Hawkins, Crosilla, Earle, Withers, Allen, Hathaway, Doherty, Spence, Reynolds, Sallie, Osgood, Doherty, Spicer, Taylor-Dennehy.
Replacements: McGarvie, Popham, Webster.