Jersey Reds 21 Nottingham 2223/09/2016
Jersey suffered an agonising last-gasp defeat when Nottingham crossed for a try at the death and visiting fly-half Lawrence Rayner held his nerve to kick the winning conversion.
The home side had played some powerful rugby but were never able to pull clear, and the six-point margin throughout the last quarter was ultimately not enough.
Both sides had chances for an early score. A midfield charge by Vili Hakalo and swift hands presented a chance for Calum Hall but Jersey's Sami Fisilau was the last line of defence and able to clear. Then a Sam Katz cross-kick bounced cruelly when it seemed likely Ross Adair might have gathered it and been in the clear.
Another cross-kick, this time by the visitors, led to the opening try; the ball was skilfully gathered by former Red Oli Evans on the right-hand touchline, and he was able to feed Billy Robinson who raced to the posts (0-7).
The home team survived some further pressure but then began to get a foothold in the game and the Green and Whites were soon down to 14 men when winger Hall was penalised for deliberately knocking down Regan King's pass as Jersey attacked. The yellow card was followed by a kick to the corner and a rolling maul, at the end of which Fisilau broke towards the corner and crossed for the try. Katz landed a tricky conversion to level the scores, although Rayner's penalty soon put his side back in front.
Another attacking option from the maul saw Nick Selway cross for a try to put his side in front, with Katz again converting. Jersey's forwards were at the heart of their side's efforts, but there were also flashes of running from the three-quarters, notably a fantastic 40-plus metre surge from Rich Lane down the left wing.
Nottingham came out strongly after the break and eventually their pressure resulted in a try from close range by hooker Jimmy Stevens. Once again, Jersey countered and Selway finished another rolling maul from an attacking lineout. When the restart failed to go 10 and Jordan Davies punted downfield, the Reds forced another lineout, but this time were penalised for crossing as the crowd sensed a bonus point try.
With Jersey 21-15 ahead, there was a scoreless half-hour that included quite a few handling errors and a missed penalty from 40 metres by Katz. The visitors were staying in touch tenaciously, and as the penalty count mounted - an estimated 11 conceded by Jersey in the second period - they sensed an opportunity.
The final penalty came with no time to kick for touch, but after a series of phases replacement prop Tom Heard crossed, and Rayner sealed the deal with a conversion from 10 metres to the right of centre.
Harvey Biljon said: "For the last two weeks we have beaten ourselves. If you get outplayed, then that's not a problem, but this is disappointing. We've spoken in the dressing room about what we need to review - the discipline was not great and there were some crucial moments when we gave away silly penalties that invited pressure. You can only absorb pressure for so long - 79 and a half minutes in our case!
"There were improvements in some areas, we'd talked about set-piece accuracy and our lineout was much improved, and I though Sam Katz deserved credit for a good display in his first Championship hit-out."
Nottingham Head Coach Ian Costello said: "We have been severely depleted by injuries, especially in the backs, and we expected it would be a struggle to get a return here against a quality side, so it was great that some of the young players who came in stood up and took their opportunities.
"In the last quarter our maul started to function well and fair play to Lawrence Rayner for finding a great long-range touch to put us in the right area and then for landing the final kick."
Jersey Reds: Cuthbert; Adair, King (Robling 54), Davies, Lane; Katz, Fisilau; Thomas (Woolmore 65), Selway (Buckle 49), Kerrod (Armstrong 49), Campbell, McKern (Kolo'ofa'i 54), Argyle, Freeman (capt), Haining (Doyle 60-70)
Replacement (not used): Hardy.
Nottingham: Robinson; Yawayawa, Evans, Hakalo, Hall (YC 22); Rayner, Veenendaal; West (Morley 35), Stevens (Harris 57), Parkins (Heard 49), Morris (capt), Green (Everard 67), Langley, Coghlan, Poullet.
Replacements (not used): McConnell, Millett
REFEREE: Ian Tempest. Assistants: Darryl Chapman, Simon Adams
Half Time: 14-10
Tries: Fisilau 23, Selway 32, 49
Conversions: Katz 23, 32, 49
Tries: Robinson 12, Stevens 46, Heard 80
Conversions: Rayner 12, 80
Penalty: Rayner 29