Jersey 23 Worcester 2121/03/2015
Jersey stunned Worcester to deliver one of the finest results in the Island side's recent rise up the leagues.
Sealed with a kick of beauty, an Aaron Penberthy drop goal from close to the half-way line that will be remembered by all who saw it, the result ended a 24-game winning run for the Warriors in league and cup, and saw the visitors knocked off the top of the Championship table thanks to Bristol's narrow win at Rotherham.
The winning kick was part of a 13-point haul for the Jersey full-back, who missed just one of his six attempts on a breezy and testing day for goal-kicking.
Elated Head Coach Harvey Biljon felt the result matched the last-day win at Bedford last season as his finest in charge of Jersey.
"We'd spoken about how the crowd would be getting behind the players and they really lifted us and helped us deliver an 80-minute performance," he said. "It was a fantastic, brave effort by the whole squad.
"The Bedford result gave us the chance to be here and playing Worcester, so it's difficult to choose between them.
"We had a young front row out there and I wanted those players to be out from the start and urged them to enjoy the chance to take on top-flight opposition."
Andy Symons gave the visitors an early lead, but Jersey were soon in front thanks to the silky skills of Fautua Otto, who took a pass from Pierce Phillips, raced through and then gathered his chip ahead to score.
Possibly still basking in the applause, Otto failed to deal with the restart, allowing Sam Smith to seize the ball and stroll over in the corner. Symons and Penberthy traded penalties to complete the first half scoring.
An early penalty helped Jersey narrow the deficit to a single point soon after the resumption, but Warriors replied when Max Stelling fed England full-back Chris Pennell who burst towards the line. A fine Drew Locke tackle brought him down, but the forwards soon followed up with a try for Sam Betty.
Jersey's tenacity at the breakdown earned a series of penalties and though one kick to the corner failed to spark an effective rolling maul, the next attempt finished with captain Ryan Hodson touching down at the back of the maul and Jersey were just a point behind.
Penberthy's 45-metre drop-kick set up a frenzied finale, during which time Symons hooked a 35-metre effort with five minutes to play - his fourth missed kick of the afternoon - and after surviving this scare the Islanders were not to be denied.
Worcester Director of Rugby Dean Ryan had few complaints about
"Jersey set their team up well and kicked well, and we didn't," he said. "The conditions were difficult today with the wind and Jersey made it count.
"We've played a few get-out-of-jail cards, but we couldn't manage that today. I wouldn't fault our intensity - we certainly fronted up but Jersey matched us.
"Fair play - it was a cup final for them, and sometimes when a player knocks over a drop goal from half-way you have to say 'well done' to him."
The result brought disappointment to a vast army of travelling
Worcester fans - estimates ranged from 600 upwards - who supported
their team with great passion and were very gracious in defeat.
However the final regular season match against Bristol at the end
of April - at home - still looks likely to decide which team will
top the table - for what that is worth, ahead of the
promotion-deciding play-offs in May.
JERSEY: Penberthy, Foster, Locke, Bishop (Bentley 63), Otto, Robling, Fisilau (Glynn 75); Lancuba (Lockwood 46), Buckle (Garcia-Veiga 57), Herriott (Williams 51), Phillips, Markham (Kaho 60), Rae (c), Hodson, Haining. Not used: Noone.
WORCESTER: Pennell, Smith, Stelling, Symons, Biggs (Howard 77), Mills, Mulchrone (Arr 60); Bower (Rapava Ruskin 63), Annett (George 63), Schonert (Rees 67), Williams, Thomas, Betty, Lewis, van Velze (c). Not used: O'Shea, Fatiaki.
REFEREE: Andrew Small (RFU)
Man-of-the-match (as chosen by match-day sponsor UBS): Aaron Penberthy (Jersey)
Half Time: 10-14
Tries: Otto 19, Hodson 67
Conversions: Penberthy 19, 67
Penalties: Penberthy 37, 42
Drop goal: Penberthy 70
Tries: Smith 17, Betty 49
Conversion: Symons 49
Penalties: Symons 17, 31, 40