THE 80 MINUTE JOB
By Katie Daunt
Raiders 24 Old Redlcliffians 17
The coach has been saying it all winter long.
Play for 80 minutes, not 50, 60, 40 or 30, but 80 and we might well win.
As far as Jordan Reynolds was concerned, that was the basis of this splendidly exciting result in front of another noisy and fervent crowd in the Garenne Stand.
‘Listen, it was a tough encounter and I think we made mistakes in certain areas, but the message we have tried to get through to the players all winter is that we have wanted them to play a full 80 and give ourselves every opportunity to win a game,’ he said beyond the final whistle.
‘I think it [the result] was proof in the pudding there. We played the full 80, right down to the death, closed out the game and we got the result. It was fantastic. We also have to remember that is a team that put 50 points on us when we went away.’
Raiders also managed to keep the league’s leading try scorer, Henry Bird, at bay as they thrillingly held on to post a rare win at National Two level.
Twice in the first half Raiders led, only to be pegged back by the visitors.
At half time Old Reds led 14-12 and they pushed the lead out to five with an early Ashley Groves penalty in the second.
But with Old Reds twice losing players to yellows, the home team responded brilliantly and levelled the game with a superb team try finished off by their returning veteran full back Luke Sayer.
Thomas failed to land the conversion, but soon after Raiders won a scrum in front of the posts and despite desperate defence from the visitors there was an air of inevitability about the penalty try which followed and wrapped up the game.
Old Reds badly missed their first choice fly half Kieran Hill, while for the home side Kiwi Douglas Horrocks was outstanding, along with fellow back rower George Shannon.
‘I find it difficult to choose between Doug and George Shannon today (for man of the match).
‘Bloody hell, George played out of his skin today, Doug did too.
‘Definitely those two, but I wouldn’t put a piece of paper between them as far as man of the match goes, and it’s so good to see them both playing so well.’
There was a good early sigh for Raiders with Old Reds collapsing the first scrum, Thomas kicked for the corner and although the initial catch and drive came to nothing it earned them a penalty close to the line.
Another lineout saw the ball collected cleanly and with a big collective push George Shannon took the ball over.
Thomas knocked over the extras and it was the perfect start after seven minutes.
Old Reds got on the score sheet as Kieran Ward forced himself over and Grover, a replacement for the absent Kieran Hill, the league’s leading points scorer, pierced the posts to level the game.
Thomas passed up a likely three points to kick for the corner and another catch and drive push, and after Douglas Horrocks caught Tom Ceillam’s throw the pack got going and the ball was transferred back for Nick Merrien to touch down.
Thomas pushed the kick right of the posts but Raiders led 12-7 approaching the half hour mark .
The half was into stoppage time when Henry Bird made his first significant break, darted 30m and although caught just short of the line, he laid off for fly half a Groves to score and convert his own try for a 14-12 lead at the break.
On the resumption Raiders were under the cosh from the start and as well as losing skipper Lewis Hillier to a yellow, they conceded a simple penalty to Groves to extend the lead to five.
Raiders weathered the storm still and Thomas found the corner with a fine kick and although the lineout was messed up, Old Reds lost a player to a high tackle in the follow up action.
Old Reds were still down to 14 as Hillier returned and soon after Raiders levelled with a superb score, that involved the whole back line and was finished off by Luke Sayer in the fashion of the old Sayer.
Disappointingly, though, Thomas pulled the kick and Raiders missed the chance to nudge ahead.
Old Reds lost a second player to the sin-bin and Raiders had their tails up, adoring a bonus point clinching fourth score with a penalty try in front of the posts.
That was enough to tie up the win.
Reynolds said even when Old reds were on top at the start of the second period, his men were on the ball.
‘Momentum is going to swing and you only need one good break for momentum to swing, but we have to look at how we dug ourselves out of that problem. Look, we lost ‘Lewy’ for the yellow and that was a big problem (at that point), but our scrum still functioned really well, so the courage to climb out of that problem was key for us.
‘You can’t be dominant for a full 80 against a team like this.
‘We can measure this against something and we got the reward for it.
‘If we can beat Irish away and Dings at home, then who knows?
The win was not the only cause of celebration.
In coming off the bench Cam Craine chalked up Raiders appearance No. 201, having become the fifth GRFC man to chalk up 200 appearances for the club the previous weekend away and was recognised by the Club and crowd at the completion of the match.
Well done Cam.