Bristol 54 Jersey 14

02/02/2014

Bristol 54 Jersey 14
Greene King IPA Championship
by Tom Innes

Jersey faced something of a mismatch against a club with Premiership ambitions and credentials, finishing a distant second at the Memorial Stadium.

After five seasons in the second tier of English rugby, Bristol are looking to return to the top flight and Andy Robinson's team dismantled the Island side with four tries in each half. Jersey had the consolation of two fine tries stemming from flowing threequarter moves, but otherwise were outmuscled in the forwards, and left licking their wounds and needing to bounce back strongly when Nottingham visit St Peter next Saturday.

Both sides showed a willingness to run the ball in spite of a pitch that tended towards the soft and greasy after the heavy rainfall that hit the west of England throughout January (it was fortunate that the first two days of February were to prove drier). Bristol's first try after 10 minutes stemmed from a kick through that was fielded by Elvis Taione; after chasing back, Jersey's hooker then found himself isolated and was forced to surrender possession and it was Bristol scrum-half Luke Baldwin who took advantage to race through and score (as pictured below).

Baldwin Try

The home side's tally doubled when a penalty was kicked to touch some 12 metres out and a driving maul rumbled up to, and over, the Jersey line with debutant Ross Rennie claiming the points.
 
Jersey's second serious foray into the opposition half brought their first points. Tom Brown made an impressive 20-metres break from a scrum. He was brought down just short but then after a couple of forward drives the ball was fed wide: McCrea, Locke, Burroughs, Foster - try. Niall O'Connor stroked over a splendid conversion from the touchline and it was 14-7.

Baldwin looked the man most likely to spark his side's next score, but was thwarted by an excellent cover tackle by Burroughs and then threw a pass that a prop for the Extra B's would have been ashamed of, when Nick Koster would surely otherwise have scored.

Jersey were struggling to compete at the scrum - a rare event in the Championship - and more Bristol pressure led to Luke Eves having a dart from close range. The centre was caught a metre out by O'Connor but had the strength to force his way over with Jersey's fly-half still clinging to him.

Nicky Griffiths' touch kick gained Jersey more than 60 metres, but the attacking platform was lost and Bristol's Nicky Robinson was soon exploiting a gap in midfield to surge through a and slip a scoring pass to the lively hooker Ross Johnston. The bonus point was secure, even if Robinson did miss the conversion - it was to be the only unsuccessful attempt of the afternoon - with the final kick of the half.

Sam Lockwood was brought on at the break and proceeded to make a lively debut, as prominent in loose play as the man he replaced, Sean McCarthy.

An excellent wrap-around tackle by Mark Foster prevented a fifth try for the home side, but the respite lasted barely 30 seconds and Bristol fed the ball wide and sublime hands from Marco Mama presented a try on a plate to lock Ben Glynn.

Jersey claimed their second try from a first phase move cited afterwards as one of the few bright points by Head Coach Harvey Biljon. It was a lineout around 15 metres out, well won and Griffiths fired the ball out to his threequarters. Drew Locke took it in the fly-half position, passed to O'Connor and then the ball was slipped to a Foster running at pace through the midfield from the opposite wing. The former Gloucester and Exeter man might have scored his second try, but when he was detained just short, Grant Pointer was able to finish the job and O'Connor again added the extras.

Bristol

In an open game, well refereed by the Argentine Francisco Pastrana, Jersey retained hope of a bonus point, and gained the perfect platform for try number three with an attacking lineout just five metres out. But the ball was lost and before too long Ruki Tipuna had added a sixth Bristol try within 20 seconds of taking the field as Bristol attacked from a lineout.

The indignity of a penalty try from a retreating scrum took the tally against to Jersey past the 41 scored by Plymouth in September, and in the final play it equalled the highest Championship concession by the Islanders. Rennie scored his second in the corner and replacement Adrian Jarvis converted to take his side to 54 points, the same total as Rotherham scored in defeating Jersey 54-31 in September 2012.

Harvey Biljon said after the match:

"It was a tough day at the office for us and something of a reality check. I can say that our endeavour to continue playing attacking rugby was probably the only thing we can take away from this game.

"Bristol really forced us to play and showed great physicality - we were outmuscled and our set piece was taken away from us and that hasn't been something that has happened to Jersey - the scrum and lineout weren't there and that hurt us.

"We did score a really good try off first phase ball - the backs played well whereas in recent games the forwards have been our dominant unit - the challenge is for backs and forwards to deliver together."

About the need to regroup for the Nottingham game, Biljon added: "We have spoken already [in the dressing room after the game] as a group about what we need to do - it's going to be about our reaction, both in training and on the pitch next Saturday. I don't want us to obsess about beating Nottingham, but I do expect us to hit our performance targets, both defensively and in terms of taking scoring opportunities, and the results should follow.

"The next three to five weeks will be huge and I'm going to find out a lot about the players, including their attitude both on and off the field and their work ethic. Professionalism is still relatively new to this club and players who are young or haven't been in a full-time professional environment before need to learn what it means to be a professional day-in and day-out."

On being told that bottom club Ealing had achieved an 18-all draw against Cornish Pirates, Biljon continued his reluctance to look over his shoulder. "That's a numbers game that's going on behind us and I don't want to get distracted by it," he said.

Jersey's other consolation was to see another play-off contender, Leeds Carnegie, win by an even greater margin, by 50-6 over Bedford, in the other game on Sunday. On Saturday Rotherham moved to the top of the table, defeating Moseley 16-6, while previous leaders London Welsh went down 35-16 at Plymouth. Nottingham beat London Scottish 15-3 on Friday. Rotherham lead Welsh by three points, with Leeds and Bristol two points further back, Bristol with a game in hand. See HERE for full league table

Bristol
Auguy Slowik; George Watkins, Bryan Rennie*, Luke Eves, Andy Short; Nicky Robinson*, Luke Baldwin*; Kyle Traynor*, Ross Johnston*, James Hall, Ben Glynn, Mark Sorenson (c)*, Nick Koster, Ross Rennie, Marco Mama*.
Replacements (all used): Rhys Lawrence, Gaston Cortes, Glen Townson, Mitch Eadie, Ruki Tipuna, Adrian Jarvis, Jack Wallace.

Jersey
Jack Burroughs; Grant Pointer, Drew Locke, Mark McCrea, Mark Foster; Niall O'Connor*, Nicky Griffiths*; Sean McCarthy*, Elvis Taione*, Dave Young*, Nick Campbell*, Dave Markham*, Alex Rae (capt), Joe Buckle, Tom Brown.
Replacements (all used): David Felton, Nick Selway, Sam Lockwood, James Voss, Latu Makaafi, Jimmy Williams, David Bishop.

* denotes players who were replaced

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