THERE’S a pattern developing quickly in this new London & SE division and, pleasingly, Raiders are part of it.
A fourth win in five games lifted the lads up to third in the table and only the free-scoring Wimbledon and Rochford Hundred sides are ahead.
The top three are already looking - perhaps - a cut above the rest although as Tunbridge Wells showed at Footes Lane on Saturday and Hertford previously, they are two strong teams who won’t be settling for mid-table mediocrity quite yet.
As for us?
Well, clearly the robustness and forwards strength of the past few seasons remains despite some personnel changes in the pack, but encouragingly the signs are there that possibly the achilles heel of recent times - linking with the backs and three-quarters - has been largely remedied.
Matt Armstrong was excellent in front of a big Footes Lane crowd and the Veamatahau brothers looked the part also.
Indeed, the two tries for the impressive Matt Armstrong and a sublime last-minute score finished off by Naki Veamatahau on the other wing were among the highlights.
And, all the new boys impressed on their ‘Garenne Stand’ home debuts.
Scrum-half Jake O’Connor had a good game, as did flanker Courtney Raymond, and the Norwegian international Joe Andresen.
But it took quite a time for Raiders to stamp their authority.
It was really hard work against a good side but eventually a penalty 5m out just to the right of the posts saw No. 8 Douglas Horrocks peel off the back, break through a tackle and score. Owen Thomas added the conversion.
Guernsey lost Tom Ceillam to the sin-bin seven minutes before half-time but the hosts coped with the loss of their hooker well and extended their lead before the interval when Matt Armstrong finished in the corner.
Asher Veamatahau played a big part in the third try, making a half break before offloading to fullback Anthony Armstrong, who had his younger brother supporting him on the outside and Matt again touched down in the corner.
The pack then started to go to work and a couple of huge shoves won successive penalties that allowed Raiders to kick to the corner, from one of which captain Lewis Hillier powered his way over for the bonus-point try.
Visiting centre Mike Doherty scored a consolation try five minutes from the end but Raiders weren’t done and Thomas nudged a delightful grubber kick for Naki Veamatahau to run on to and score.
All in all, the coach was happy other than news of Hillier injuring his rib which may keep him out of this weekend’s trip to London Irish.
‘Matt has been playing well in most of the games and he’s been really solid, but he came to the forefront on Saturday.
‘The link between him and Anthony is a very pretty picture. They seem to popping up in and around the same places.’
What pleased the coach most though?
‘For me everything we didn’t do at Rochford. This time we stuck to the plan of what we wanted to do.
‘Defensively we were quite solid and to do it against a quality side like Tunbridge is good for us.
‘I can see them beating a lot of good teams.’
Raiders: Steventon, Ceillam, Pinkney, Hillier, Webb, Raymond, Rice, Horrocks, O’Connor, Andresen, M. Armstrong, Thomas, A. Veamatahau, N. Veamatahau, A. Armstrong. Replacements: Craine, Gardner, Sayer.
Tunbridge Wells: Wiecaszek, Nicholls, Straeche, J. Hawkins, Whale, Brown, Hathaway, N. Doherty, Croft, Montgomery, Hobbs, M. Doherty, Webster, Toomer, Taylor-Dennehy. Replacements: L. Hawkins, Reynolds, Janeczko.
Meanwhile, after some defensive training work with Jordan Reynolds, second XV Vikings are off the mark in the Zoo Shield Division Two.
They came back brilliantly to secure a narrow victory over Sutton & Epsom in a close run affair, that ebbed and flowed either way right up until the final whistle.
Things weren’t looking so hot when Vikings fell 12-0 behind.
At half-time the Vikings regrouped and coach Matt Chammings rang several changes.
Young prop Tom Bray came on and helped steady the scrum and the experience of former Raider Dave Davison in the back-line also showed immediately.
Vikings opened the second half scoring when Nick Merrien bundled his way over the line and Matt Lomas slotted the conversion.
Vikings piled on the pressure and soon after Cam Le Provost showed some great footwork to beat two defenders and get over the line under the posts.
Lomas then slotted a penalty from 30 yards for the Vikings to take the lead, but this was short lived when Sutton responded with a try of their own.
Kieran Creber, on from the bench, managed to steal the ball in a tackle and with no one in front of him sprinted for the line to score.
Two minutes later Vikings once again switched off when Sutton quick tapped a penalty from half way and ended up running in under the posts for a 26-20 lead with 8 minutes to play.
With only minutes remaining the Vikings had a lineout on Sutton’s 22.
They impressively caught the call and drove the Sutton pack all the way back over their line with Nick Merrien emerging as the try scorer.
Lomas cooly slotted the conversion to take a 26-27 lead into the dying seconds.
Vikings were awarded a penalty not long after the restart, and the dependable boot of Matt Lomas put them on the Sutton 22 with time to take the lineout only.
The Vikings caught and drove again but this time the home side defended sternly, and with the maul veering towards the touch line captain Darrin Bellingham broke from the back and singlehandedly ran in a very impressive try.
Lomas converted and the game ended 26-34.
Reynolds was delighted to hear of the win.
‘One of the things about this partnership with Vikings is doing some the extra coaching,’ said the director of rugby.
‘Steve Melbourne has worked with them on the lineout and I went along last week to work on defence.
‘Malcolm Barnes is going to go down to work with the backs.
‘It makes sense as we play against each other in training regularly and there are one or two guys in there who we have got our eyes on for the first team.’
Sadly, the Guernsey Raiders Ladies couldn’t make it a hat-trick of wins.
Their difficult start to the season continued with a 24-12 loss at Southampton.