Preview & squad for Bristol (A) 17.4.1516/04/2015
Jersey are set to make their final way trip of the season when they travel to Bristol to take on the league leaders.
The Islanders will be making a sixth attempt to gain a win over Bristol, one of just two Greene KIng IPA Championship sides - Moseley are the other - they have never beaten.
It is a daunting prospect, taking on a side moving into peak form ahead of the promotion play-offs in front of what is set to be the biggest-ever crowd to watch a match involving Jersey: the previous record was the 5,906 at Sixways for the match against Worcester last November, but Bristol are averaging 7,767 in the league this season, their first since the move to the Ashton Gate ground they share with Bristol City. Andy Robinson's side outclassed Plymouth Albion at Brickfields last weekend, scoring 10 tries in a 7-65 thumping.
The Islanders will take heart from the fact that they have troubled the top two three times this season: Worcester needed a late penalty to win the game at Sixways 32-29 in November, while as then leaders of the Championship the Warriors were unseated 23-21 at St Peter four weeks ago. Bristol also had a tough battle when they visited the Island in January, trailing for much of the game until they took the lead with seven minutes to play, adding a further score in the last play to complete a fortunate 0-5 match points haul from the 17-27 result.
One factor not in Jersey's favour is an injury list that is longer than at any stage so far this season, with the back row particularly badly affected - five squad players are absent from this department.
Head Coach Harvey Biljon makes five changes in personnel, the majority injury-related, to the XV who started last weekend's match against Cornish Pirates at St Peter, a game the Islanders went on to win thanks to a late Joe Buckle try that levelled the scores, and Aaron Penberthy's conversion to seal a 28-26 win.
In the back-line centre Mark McCrea, wing Mark Foster and scrum-half Sami Fisilau miss out, meaning opportunities for Ryan Glynn, Jonny Bentley and Ed Dawson. Glynn will start at number 9, with Bentley outside him, while Lewis Robling reverts to centre. Dawson will make his first appearance since recovering from injury.
The pack has fewer changes, although there are opportunities for props Nacho Lancuba and Danny Herriott, with Sam Lockwood and Harry Williams selected on the bench. In the continued absence of back-row colleagues, and after an impressive display against the Pirates, Joe Buckle continues in his former position of flanker, having scored as a hooker in the match against Bristol in January (pictured below by Sue Trower).
The Islanders' bench sees scrum-half Joel Dudley and midfielder Tobias Hoskins drafted in.
Jersey's record against Bristol to date has been slightly better on home soil - prior to this season's match at St Peter, the West Country side registered a 17-26 win in September 2013 and a 23-29 success six months earlier. In two visits to Bristol's former ground at the Memorial Stadium, Jersey were defeated 39-16 in November 2012 and 54-14 in February last year.
After the trip to Bristol, Jersey play their final Championship
game at home to Moseley on Saturday April 25th, before rounding off
their season on Saturday May 2nd when they contest the annual Siam
Cup match against Channel island rivals Guernsey.
Jersey squad v Bristol 'A' - Greene King IPA Championship, Friday April 17th, Ashton Gate, k-o 7.45pm
Alex Rae (capt)
The Greene King IPA Championship this weekend
It's the penultimate round of the regular season, and two games stand out. The two sides in danger of relegation meet at Billesley Common on Saturday afternoon, where hosts Moseley are set to open their new stand and will want to snuff out the escape prospects of visitors Plymouth. Albion are currently seven points adrift and need a win to take the issue to the last day.
At Lady Bay Nottingham host Rotherham with the two sides chasing the final play-off spot - the Titans are currently just a point ahead. The other games see Pirates host Worcester and Doncaster v Beford on Saturday, and Yorkshire Carnegie at home to London Scottish the following afternoon.
See HERE for the full round 21 preview
Jersey Athletic are also playing their penultimate league fixture this weekend, and the squad will be at Ashton Gate on Friday before travelling to Cinderford on Saturday for the Zoo Shield match.
There are also numerous big matches across the country that will decide promotion and relegation issues, not least Ealing Trailfinders seeking to confirm their return to the Championship - a win, draw or even a narrow defeat at home to Rosslyn Park will seal the National One title.
Enjoy your weekend's rugby!