Jersey 17 Cornish Pirates 1512/09/2015
Jersey held on for a narrow victory to kick-start their season and register a sixth victory in their last eight league outings on home soil.
The Islanders out-scored the visiting Pirates by three tries to two, completing a third consecutive win by the same margin at St Peter after a 27-25 win in 2013/14 and a 28-26 success in April this year. Head Coach Harvey Biljon was a contented man afterwards.
"It wasn't the complete performance and there are still things to work on, but we improved our set piece and accuracy from last weekend, and I was pleased with the composure that we showed to close out the win," said the former Pirates' Assistant Coach. "We had a difficult build-up with injuries affecting our preparations, so a win is a good way to finish the week."
Pirates lost skipper Chris Morgan to an arm injury* within two minutes of kick-off, and worse was to follow for the visitors as Jersey cranked up their rolling maul and James Freeman scored. Another penalty offence by the Pirates was punished in identical fashion early in the second quarter, leaving Jersey 12-0 ahead.
The visitors claimed their first try after a series of forward drives culminated in a try for Alex Cheesman, and within two minutes of the restart the long-haired flanker had a second try, finishing off a rolling maul to level the scores.
Jersey began to show a more expansive side to their game, utilising the running skills of the backs, with Fautua Otto a frequent threat. When replacement Dave Markham found Brendan Cope, the fly-half fed Otto who broke through and popped a scoring pass to centre partner Lewis Robling.
Pirates hit back with a Kieran Hallett penalty and another score would have won them the game for the visitors. Kyle Moyle twice threatened to provide it, but a potentially scoring inside pass went to ground and then Jersey's Jack Moates scragged the winger close to the try-line.
In the closing moments Jersey sensed a fourth try and a bonus point, but with time up the home side were happy to kick the ball dead and bank four hard-earned points.
Pirates Director of Rugby Ian Davies admitted to mixed emotions.
"We could have snatched it, but to come away with a losing bonus point after we'd lost our captain within 90 seconds isn't too bad," he said. "The rolling maul is a big weapon unless you stop it at source, so we knew that by giving away silly penalties in the centre of the field we were liable to be punished."
* Chris Morgan's injury was subsequently diagnosed as a dislocated shoulder.
JERSEY: Lane, Howe, Otto, Robling, Adair (McCrea 75), Cope, Moates; Lancuba (McCarthy 59), Selway (Garcia-Veiga 48), Featherstone (Herriott h-t), Campbell, Phillips (Markham 48), Graham (Butterworth 67), Freeman, Rae (c). Not used: Dudley
PIRATES: T May, Moyle, Riley (May L 48-52), James, Holland, Hallett, Day; Andrew P (Walker 48), Channon (Innard 62), Andrew J (Jamieson 58), McGlone, Morgan (capt) (Graulich 2), Cheesman, Atkinson (Simmonds 62), Parker. Not used: Pope
REFEREE: Andrew Small (RFU)
MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Fautua Otto (Jersey)
Tries: Freeman 5, 23, Robling 57
Conversion: Cope 5
Tries: Cheesman 34, 42
Conversion: Hallett 34
Penalty: Hallett 62