Jersey 17 Bristol 2710/01/2015
Jersey gave as good as they got against the unbeaten league leaders before eventually yielding to two killer late tries. For much of the match a neutral spectator - not that there were many in a crowd just above 2,000 - might have struggled to work out which side was unbeaten in 10 league outings and which had won only twice in the same period.
With seven minutes to go Jersey's 17-15 lead was cancelled out by their opponents' third try, and the final act of the match was another Bristol score, giving the visitors a bonus point they barely deserved and at the same stroke leaving the home side empty-handed.
A penalty from the first scrum allowed Matthew Morgan to open his side's account with a straightforward penalty. Playing into a stiff wind, Jersey were opting for position when they were awarded penalties; the first rolling maul was successfully neutered by Bristol, but a second attempt was more purposeful and Sam Lockwood claimed the try to put the hosts in front.
Bristol countered with a rumble of their own that culminated in a penalty try, but after visiting centre Ben Mosses was sin-binned for an illegal block, Jersey were able to draw level. A powerful and fleet-footed break by Lewis Robling set up Joe Buckle for the try shortly before the break.
A scoreless third quarter meant the teams were still locked together, but Mama claimed a try from a rolling maul to break the deadlock. Jersey replied with some determined attacking play and replacement Gaston Cortes became the second Bristol player to see yellow.
During Cortes' absence, Bristol lost the lead thanks to a Ryan Hodson try from yet another rolling maul, but then regained it, with the pack carving out an identikit try, once again claimed by Mama.
Jersey's efforts to summon up a tying penalty or a winning try were met by a solid wall of Bristol defenders, and the visitors were able to work the field position from which Nicky Robinson sliced through for a try under the posts.
"We deserved more but didn't get it," said Jersey's frustrated Head Coach Harvey Biljon. "We have to reproduce the commitment and desire we showed in our next few games and that's when the results we need will come.
"I don't want to say too much about the refereeing, but I think that teams at the top of the table get decisions given in their favour that others in the bottom half of the table do not.
"Joe Buckle in his third game at hooker was very impressive but the effort from all the players was something I'm proud of, and there was some great leadership from key individuals who really stood up when we lost our captain to injury."
Bristol's relief was expressed by Marco Mama after the flanker claimed a brace of tries.
"Jersey made it very tough for us, as expected, but the boys
stuck together and showed real belief that we could get the win,"
he said. "The crowd really got behind Jersey, but we used their
energy to fire ourselves up."
JERSEY: Pointer, Foster, Bishop, Robling, Locke, Penberthy (Bentley 76), Dudley (Glynn 54); Lockwood, Buckle, Williams, Campbell, Phillips (Markham 70), Rae (c) (Noone 34), Hodson, Haining. Not used: Selway, Lancuba, Herriott.
BRISTOL: Slowik (Robinson N 54), Short, Tovey, Mosses (YC 36), Lemi (c), Morgan, Hampson; Traynor, Brooker (Lawrence 54), Perenise (Cortes 54 - YC 66), Evans (Glynn 62), Townson, Mama, Robinson O (Koster 76), Eadie. Not used: Baldwin, Amesbury.
REFEREE: Darren Gamage (RFU)
Star man: Matthew Morgan - Bristol
Half Time: 10-10
Tries: Lockwood 14, Buckle 38, Hodson 67
Conversion: Penberthy 67
Tries: Penalty Try 32, Mama 62, 73, Robinson N 80
Conversions: Morgan 32, 80
Penalty: Morgan 4