GUERNSEY RAIDERS chief Jordan Reynolds branded an away Siam Cup victory as an ‘impossible challenge’ last week.
He said his National Two side were ‘massive underdogs’, having lost on home turf when Jersey Reds Athletic – plus two junior professionals – last visited Footes Lane.
It appeared as though this tie had ‘Caesarean domination’ written all over it.
How pleased he must have been to be proved wrong.
In truth, though, this was never going to be a Siam Cup tie akin to those seen over the last decade, when Jersey’s elite approach ultimately made the difference.
It was a close call for the Reds in November, when the sides met for the delayed 2020 edition, but further rule changes since then – including the expulsion of all of Jersey’s first-team – seem to have tipped the balance firmly in Guernsey’s favour.
That said, despite the scoreline, the final outcome could still have been different at St Peter on Saturday. Jersey did still hold hope of victory early in the second half, having fought back to trail 26-19 from 19-0 down.
That would be as close as they would get.
The floodgates cracked against their hinges in the final 12 minutes, with four quick tries taking Guernsey’s tally to ten and ending any remaining resolve held by those in red.
The Raiders enjoyed a positive start, controlling the opening exchanges with steady attacks and quick-fire tackles when their hosts had possession.
Centre Charlie Davies combined well with half-back pairing Charlie Simmonds and Owen Thomas to highlight their team’s threat before Simmonds created the opener for Anthony Armstrong, who would end the day with a hat-trick and the Mike Engleman man-of-the-match trophy.
A deft chip over the top looked destined for the dead-ball line in the right corner but winger Armstrong stormed in to connect ahead of a hurrying Jersey defence. Referee Neil Sweeney and his touch-line assistant took time to deliberate before awarding the try.
Just three minutes passed before Guernsey crossed again – Ciaran McGann finishing off a length-of-field move from right to left for 12-0 – and with just 21 minutes on the clock the visitors were three scores ahead when Davies released flanker Oscar Baird, who had enough of a head-start to escape last-man Aaron Penberthy’s attempted tackle.
Jersey needed time on the ball. Slowly, but surely, they got it.
Having worked their way up the field it appeared an opportunity was missed when a five-metre attacking scrum was lost, but Harrison Berresford’s successful kick-charge sent the ball spinning back beyond the try-line. Mark Boarer was quickest to react, for 19-5.
After Guernsey fullback Callum Roberts had found the left corner Boarer reduced the deficit again with an interception on halfway, and prop George Thomas bagged Jersey’s third on the stroke of half time, from a lineout maul.
With the Reds’ first-team squad – dressed in their traditional end-of-season ‘colourful shirt’ attire – urging them on with chants and whistle-blowing, Athletic held the early second-half momentum knowing that, at 26-19 to the greens, the next score was crucial.
Had Boarer’s half-volley from Penberthy’s chip bounced favourably the scores would likely have been levelled, but Guernsey then hammered down another nail when Davies won a foot-race for the line after Doug Horrocks blocked a kicked clearance.
Roberts made it 38-19 with space to spare on the right flank before McGann floored would-be tackler Scott McClurg and set up Ethan Smith for the Sarnians’ seventh touchdown.
Numbers eight to ten then arrived without much objection – via Armstrong (two) and Davies – although captain Tim Corson did offer Jersey some respite with a dash for the posts, following Boarer’s lay-off.
With a home crowd to please Reynolds will surely not field a weaker side for the 2022 edition at Footes Lane this coming Saturday, while Myles Landick’s Reds could be without up to six of Saturday’s 22 due to injuries.
But, as we all know, in sport there is always hope – because nothing is impossible.