Jersey 7 Leicester Tigers 6924/08/2013
Jersey 7 Leicester Tigers 69
By: James Hewlett
The second Ashburton challenge gave the new look, fully professional Jersey side a chance to face off against one of the best sides in European rugby. The 3,212 strong crowd were keen to see how the dozen or so new signings led by new captain Alex Rae fared against a Leicester side coming off the back of a record tenth English title and their third in five years. The twice Heineken cup winners, contained four of their six British and Irish Lions representatives, Dan Cole, Geoff Parling and Tom Youngs all started, with Tom Croft on the bench.
Jersey started well and was determined not to be pushed about by their illustrious opponents. As early as the eighth minute Parling thought he had bulldozed over, only to be denied by a collective of Jersey bodies, notably Fred Silcock. Leicester Tigers were sharp early on however, and an incisive move by former All Black Scott Hamilton led to Parling this time scoring the opening try in the corner, Flood missing the conversion. Jersey responded well and went toe to toe with the Tigers but on the quarter hour, a line break caused an overlap and the impressive Vereniki Goneva scored the first of his two tries. A horrible scuff by Flood meant he was now nought from two kicks.
With Prop Jon Brennan taken off with injury the Jersey pack looked unsettled, but once Elvis Taione flattened Cole on 24 minutes, the crowd came alive, and moments later came the move of the half from Jersey. Nicky Griffiths continued recycling of the play, finally releasing O'Connor who in turn fed Drew Locke left to right, and the debutant scored to the delight of the home faithful. O'Conno○r converted to bring the score to 7-10.
On the half hour a messy scrum put Leicester on the attack. With Parling becoming increasingly influential, breaking tackles and leading the line, and despite last ditch Jersey heroics, Leicester's man of the match Steve Mafi scored from under a pile of bodies. This time Flood converted, 7-17.
With both teams having issues with the new scrum rules, Jersey were unable to create a platform and the Premiership Champions' ability to switch the play tested the resolve, until the stroke of half time when from a rolling maul Julian Salvi crashed over. Flood again missed to leave the score 7-22 at half time. Jersey can count themselves slightly unfortunate however not to have scored a second try, as following on from a hacked clearance Ed Dawson would have been clear and under the posts but for a bad bounce just as he was about to strike the ball.
Plenty of changes from both sides for the second half, most notably the introduction of back row Tom Croft. Jersey began the second half as they began the first, but as the game wore on the class of Leicester began to tell, with sharp hands amongst the forwards leaving a gap for scrum half David Mélé to scamper over in the corner, with Flood's last involvement again missing the conversion.
On 55 minutes, hesitancy in the Jersey midfield and some slick passing gave Goneva the easiest of run-ins to extend the lead. Owen Williams looking more assured than Flood, slotted the kick to give the Tigers a 34-7 lead.
Jersey stepped up the pace and was beginning to cause Leicester problems, but a missed penalty kick to touch was hacked into acres of space, and Adam Thompstone had the simplest job to chase, pick up and dot down a score that momentarily knocked both crowd and the Jersey players. Worse was to follow when another premiership standard move was followed by a decidedly forward pass, missed by the officials, and Jamie Gibson scored. Another Williams conversion gave a score of 7-48.
Ryan Lamb then scored two quick-fire tries as Jersey tired against the third Tigers front row of the match, both converted as Leicester began to turn the screw. Henry Purdy scored the seventh try of the half late on, and Williams with his sixth successful kick somewhat skewed the score line to a final score of Jersey 7-69 Leicester Tigers.
Jersey was more than a match for Leicester in the first half in particular, the tight five can be justifiably proud of their efforts, and the handling was a class apart from last season. Leicester's extra match practice, fitness and sharpness was a key factor and gave a side packed with internationals the edge, and created the overlaps that eventually a dogged Jersey side were unable to withstand. Good performances by a number of debutants including Niall O'Conner, the man of the match for Jersey, will give great optimism for the season ahead and the players can be proud of their efforts against such illustrious opposition.
Jersey:Pointer, Foster, Locke, Bishop, Dawson, O'Connor, Griffths, McCarthy, Taione, Brennan, Campbell, Rae ©, Silcock, Buckle, Brown.Replacements:Fidler, Felton, Young, Markham, Anderson, Voss, Stratford, Williams, Penberthy, Cooper, Burroughs, Copsey.
Leicester Tigers:Morris, Hamilton, Goneva, Bowden, Thompstone, Flood ©, Mele, Mulipola, Youngs T, Cole, Deacon, Parling, Mafi, Salvi, Crane.Replacements:Humphreys, Purdy, Catchpole, Dunn, Allen, Williams, Lamb, Steele, Tressider, Stankovich, Hawkins, Briggs, Balmain, de Chavas, Price, Croft, Noone, Gibson, Waldrom.
Assistant referees:Andrew Pearce and Roy Maybank
Star Man (Jersey):O'Connor
Star Man (Tigers):Mafi
Tries:Parling 5, Goneva 14, 55, Mafi 31, Salvi 39, Mele 50,
Thompstone 59, Gibson 62, Lamb 71,77, Purdy 79
Conversions:Flood 31, Williams 55, 59, 62, 71, 77, 79