The league trip to Guernsey was the first time these two clubs have apparently met. Club Secretary Dave Doonan has some recollection of playing at Guernsey previously but his memory and sepia tinged photographic evidence provided insufficient evidence of who he was playing for.
Barnes went to Guernsey with 4 wins and a 100% point record but with significant personnel changes and the normal preparation out of the window this trip was sure to provide many challenges from a Guernsey side 4th in the league prior to the game and with an enviable home record. Players are used to certain match day routines and getting up on a Saturday morning whilst it is still dark is not one of them, checking into hotels with shortbread in the rooms is not one of them and walking to the away ground carrying your own kit is certainly not one of them. Having said all that on arrival at the impressive Guernsey ground they were pleased to see a fantastic surface and decent sunshine. More details on the temperature, wind conditions and sward length can be provided for those interested.
The game was to be a contrast of styles but it was Guernsey’s direct approach that was to dictate the first 30 minutes of the game. Barnes knew exactly what to expect but they were unable to restrict Guernsey’s key runners who constantly made good ground. On 9 minutes Guernsey worked the ball slightly wider and from 25 metres out a missed tackle allowed a simple two on one to give Guernsey a deserved converted try under the posts. For the next 15 minutes Barnes again were required to defend close to the break downs. Improving Barnes defence allowed some possession and decent ground made only for the execution of the final pass or lack of support to allow Guernsey to resume their assault. On 25 minutes the Guernsey pressure resulted in a second try for them which was unconverted.
With 30 minutes gone and 12-0 down Barnes at last started to string some meaningful possession together and for the final 10 minutes of the first half looked for the score that would take them go into the half time break with some momentum. What would have been a deserved try under the posts for Barnes was disallowed, not unreasonably, for obstruction and whilst they went into half time 12 points adrift the Barnes support could see the green shoots of recovery. Those green shoots were given a significant boost by a half time team talk of Fergusonesque proportions and Barnes came out firing on all cylinders.
The start of the 2nd half saw Barnes at their efficient best and it was fitting that the hard running and hard hitting Chris Dunlop opened Barnes account with a well worked try under the posts. The conversion saw Barnes just 5 points adrift. The quality of play continued and Barnes were making good metres as the Guernsey side visibly tired. Ant Wilde made a number of good breaks and his pace took him to the final defender but each time he was unable to beat the man. With the support for these breaks much improved it was a surprise that it took until the 20th minute for Barnes to bother the scoreboard again. The 2nd score came from a training ground catch and drive from 15 metres out with captain Si Givens making the final touchdown. Gareth Vaughan Davies once again added the conversion to take Barnes into the lead.
It was more of the same from Barnes with Guernsey unable to get a sniff of the ball and within 5 minutes Barnes had stretched the lead with the straight running winger Nick van Buuren being rewarded for his efforts. The failed conversion saw Barnes with a fragile 7 point lead. Whilst Barnes were hunting down the bonus point 4th try they had to remain resilient in defence as Guernsey were still exerting pressure and threatening the Barnes try line. For the final 5 minutes Barnes were under intense pressure but held out and indeed gave themselves one final chance of the bonus point try with the final play of the game.
So despite losing their 100% points record Barnes would have been pleased to go away with a win at a place where many sides will wilt under the pressure.
With the job done the squad then had many hours to kill prior to the return flight the following day and as club policy dictates a certain amount of social responsibility activity most went to a canine sanctuary and then an avian sanctuary with one player going beyond what was expected and visiting a single mothers refuge.
The players focus will now be on a meaningful Tuesday session and then another away trip to Tring who will be desperate to bloody the nose of Barnes.