Bristol 40 Jersey 29


A performance of character and determination by an injury-hit Jersey squad ensured a tough evening at the office for Championship leaders Bristol.

The home side had to dig deep and rely on a late comeback and some impact from the bench in order to edge the try-count by 5-4 and the match by 40-29.

The match began at a frenzied pace and five tried were scored in the opening half hour. Three of them were for the visitors, with Bristol old boy Fautua Otto claiming two of them for Jersey: the first from Jonny Bentley's cross-kick and the second after some fine counter-attacking play sparked by Aaron Penberthy and Drew Locke.

pic courtesy John White/Bristol Rugby

Bristol had scored first when Matt Morgan danced through the visiting defence and fed Charlie Amesbury, and Morgan then produced a solo effort for a try of his own, albeit that there were suggestions that Jersey's Drew Locke had been obstructed during the build-up.

Morgan's try and a Gavin Henson penalty put Bristol 15-5 up but Paul Kaho's try from a rolling maul, and Otto's second, helped Jersey to a 15-19 advantage they held to half-time. Henson and Otto both missed with drop-goal attempts, and there was a brief flare-up among the forwards that saw a penalty to Bristol reversed and a warning, but no further sanction, for home prop Ellis Genge.

The home side started the second half strongly, and twice opted to kick penalties to the corner in a bid to score tries. Henson over-cooked the first and put the ball into touch-in-goal, but his second effort was more precise and his forwards followed up with a textbook catch-and-drive. Jersey transgressed, and while the penalty advantage was being played, Morgan launched a cross-kick and Amesbury finished with ease.

Bristol led 22-19, but the score was levelled soon afterwards when a desperate clearance kick by Morgan fell to Penberthy, 40 metres out and in acres of space. The entire Jersey contingent knew what would happen next, and sure enough a nonchalent drop-goal sailed between the sticks.

Perhaps the game's pivotal moment came just after the hour when Jersey opted to kick a penalty to the corner. From the lineout a maul rumbled forward and came down as it crossed the line. There were shouts for a penalty try, but referee Macdonald opted for a scrum, gave Bristol the put-in, and within two minutes the home side had switched play to the opposite end. Jack Lam gave his side some real impetus after replacing Nick Koster and he was on hand to claim the try.

Battle as they might, the Reds never quite came as close after that. Bonus point secured, Bristol became happy to kick for goal from penalties. Henson struck two three-pointers and added a try after an over-optimistic Jersey attempt to attack from their own line.

It looked as if the Islanders might finish with nothing to show for their efforts against Bristol, for the second time in four months. Perhaps it was the spur of this potential injustice that drove Jersey forward for another attacking lineout and rolling maul, this time rewarded by the referee after again being brought to earth - the penalty try clinching a hard-won bonus point.

Jersey Head Coach Harvey Biljon was proud but also frustrated after the game.

"The whole squad showed oustanding character," he said. "People might have thought beforehand there wasn't much to play for, but the players wore their hearts on their sleeves and did the Island proud.

"The maul on Bristol's line was definitely a turning point - we would have been seven points up, but instead they went up the other end and scored and you had a 14-point turn-around."

Tries: Amesbury 2, 49, Morgan 23, Lam 62, Henson 77
Conversions: Henson 23, 49, 77
Penalties: Henson 15, 68, 80

Tries: Otto 4, 29, Kaho 26, Penalty try 78
Conversions: Penberthy 26, 29, 78
Drop goal: Penberthy 52

Jersey (1-15): Ignacio Lancuba, Martin Garcia-Veiga, Danny Herriott, Nick Campbell, Pierce Phillips, Alex Rae (capt), Joe Buckle, Paula Kaho; Ryan Glynn, Jonny Bentley, Ed Dawson, Lewis Robling, Drew Locke, Fautua Otto, Aaron Penberthy.

Replacements: Dave Markham for Buckle 7 minutes, Harry Williams for Herriott 43, Sam Lockwood for Lancuba 46, David Bishop for Robling (57-63 & 69), Tobias Hoskins for Dawson 69, Joel Dudley for Glynn 75, Nick Selway for Garcia-Veiga 77.

Bristol (1-15): Ellis Genge, Ross McMillan (c), Anthony Perenise, Ben Glynn, Glen Townson, Nick Koster, Olly Robinson, Mitch Eadie; Craig Hampson, Matt Morgan, Charlie Amesbury, Gavin Henson, Gareth Maule, Jack Tovey, Jack Wallace.

Replacements: James Stephenson, Gaston Cortes, Ryan Jones, Jack Lam, Tom Kessell, Nicky Robinson, George Watkins.

Referee: Greg Macdonald

Attendance: 7,649

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