Bedford 31 Jersey 4129/04/2014
Bedford Blues 31 Jersey 41
by Tom Innes
Jersey faced down the threat of Championship relegation - a fine mess of their own making - and responded magnificently in their final league match of 2013/14. The Island side played their get-out-of-jail cards with aplomb, and will be back for another crack at level two rugby next season.
Celebrations for Jersey boys James Voss, Jack Burroughs, Jon Brennan and Luke Stratford
Although Jersey's destiny also depended on another game, taking place 50 miles away in West London, Harvey Biljon's side stayed true to pre-match pledges to concentrate on the matter they could control.
Wearing their 'home' red strip for the contest against the Blues of Bedford, Jersey were determined from the start and an assured 40-metre penalty from Aaron Penberthy was a decent start, albeit that home kicker James Pritchard soon cancelled the advantage when Jack Burroughs was collared and penalised for not releasing the ball on his own 22.
The visitors looked potent in attack from an early stage, and took full advantage after Bedford number 8 Don Barrell was shown a yellow card for a trip. The penalty was kicked to the corner, and a rolling maul ended in a try for Nick Campbell; six minutes later Jersey crossed again - this time Nicky Griffiths the scorer, the scrum-half racing 25 metres to the line after a fine break and off-load by Sam Lockwood.
The sizeable Jersey contingent at Goldington Road were almost as stunned as the home faithful by the 3-15 advantage, but there wasn't much comfort to be taken as Bedford rallied with a two-try salvo of their own. Jake Sharp was superbly hauled down in the corner by Ben Maidment after breaking through, but before Jersey could clear, Harry Peck jinked through half a gap and fed Harry Wells for the first, and then Ollie Dodge scored to help his side to a 17-15 lead.
On a day when every kick was potentially vital, Penberthy had packed his kicking boots; the fly-half restored Jersey's advantage with a 28th-minute penalty as the visitors survived a 10-minute spell without flanker Ryan Hodson after the flanker was yellow-carded for a high tackle.
Back to full strength, Jersey looked to extend their advantage before half-time. Two attacking lineouts came to nothing, but then as the referee played advantage following a Bedford offence, Penberthy slotted through a grubber kick and Drew Locke claimed a carbon-copy of his try against London Scottish seven days earlier.
After no scrums in the opening 28 minutes, Jersey's pack began to dominate the set piece, having also held the advantage in the lineout, where former Jersey hooker Charlie Clare had a day to forget, in contrast to the accurate arrows of his opposite number Elvis Taione. In the first scrum of the second half Jersey won a penalty to extend their advantage to 11 points. But Bedford responded again with a try for Brendan Burke, and soon afterwards a major brawl erupted, with a surprising lack of cards from referee Andrew Small. On the hour it was all-square as Jerseyman Michael Le Bourgeois crossed against his old team, finding a chink in a defence that generally stood up well to the threat posed by the Blues.
Jersey needed one more surge in the closing stages, and with news emerging that Ealing might salvage something from their game, Biljon passed on instructions that Jersey should push for a fourth try. A kickable penalty was sent to touch, and Bedford had no answer to their opponents' rumbling maul, other than to concede a penalty try.
Boosted by the try bonus point - their first of the season - the Islanders looked to ensure a maximum points haul for the first time in 45 Championship matches, and a Penberthy penalty - his eighth successful kick in nine attempts - brought valuable breathing space.
Time was passing slowly, and as the scoreboard clock passed 80 minutes it was clear there would be more to add. Neither side had much more gas in the tank, and soon after the 86-minute mark a momentous game - and an eventful Championship season - was brought to an end. Had there ever been any doubt?
Report reproduced by kind permission of the Jersey Evening Post
The Jersey squad presented Bunny Le Saux with a signed shirt to thank him for his loyal support in criss-crossing the country in support of the team from his Southampton home (pic - Adam Budworth)
Forwards: Sam Lockwood, Elvis Taione, Nick Selway, Nick Campbell, James Voss, Alex Rae (capt), Ryan Hodson (YC 22), Ben Maidment. Half-backs: Nicky Griffiths, Aaron Penberthy. Backs: Ed Dawson, David Bishop, Drew Locke, Mark Foster, Jack Burroughs.
Replacements: Sean McCarthy for Lockwood (45 min), Latu Maka'afi for Maidment (53), Mark McCrea for Bishop (65), Jon Brennan for Selway (68), Joe Buckle for Voss (70), Jimmy Williams for Griffiths (76), Luke Stratford for Taione (79).
Fearn, Clare, Boulton, Howard, Wells, Gillanders, Harding, Barrell (YC 8) Peck, Sharp; Dodge, Burke, Le Bourgeois, Tapley, Pritchard. Replacements (all used): Harris, Steenkamp, Gilardon-Paz, Tupai, Vandermolen, Veenendaal, Hircock.
Referee: Andrew Small
Stat Box (home team first)
Penalties conceded 15-10
Lineouts won 8-12
Lineouts lost 5-1
Scrums won 3-6
Scrums lost 2-1
Kickers: Pritchard (Bedford) 5 from 5; Penberthy (Jersey) 8 from 9
Tries: Wells 21, Dodge 23, Burke 48, Le Bourgeois 60
Conversions: Pritchard 21, 23, 48, 60
Penalty: Pritchard 5
Tries: Campbell 9, Griffiths 15, Locke 40, Penalty Try 68
Conversions: Penberthy 9, 40, 68
Penalties: Penberthy: 2, 28, 47, 53, 74
'HIGHER!' Chairman Bill Dempsey does his finest Bruce Forsyth impression during the post-match festivities