Jersey 43 Plymouth Albion 1509/08/2015
Jersey went away from their opening match of 2015/16 with a win, seven tries, some flashes of potential and some learning points for the remainder of pre-season and beyond.
The Islanders started in a sluggish and anxious fashion, but in the end were able to recover their poise and register a sizeable win against the team relegated from the Greene King IPA Championship last April. Albion's squad had gone through considerable change over the summer but gelled together well for their opening outing.
The visitors made an impressive start, winning a series of penalties that enabled them to unleash some powerful mauls, one of which led to the opening try. When the ball was fed into midfield, Tom Bedford broke through, and then the ball was recycled to the supporting Nile Dacres who powered his way over.
Elliott Bale's penalty added three points to his side's tally, and soon afterwards when a Jersey attack broke down near half-way, full-back Ethan Ford was quickest to react, seizing the loose ball and haring to the line for a try under the posts (0-15).
In seeking to wrest control in front of their shocked home supporters, the Championship side were inevitably going to seek to use their powerful pack, and when the penalty count turned in their favour they were able to take advantage, especially once fly-half Brendan Cope found his range in kicking from hand after misdirecting a couple of his early clearances.
During a series of attacking lineouts, number 8 Tommy Spinks twice finished off rolling mauls by touching down, while on another occasion the ball was fed to wing Ross Adair who came into the line at pace and forced his way over. The burst of three tries in 10 minutes enabled the Islanders to take a narrow 19-15 lead into half-time.
Neither side could create many scoring opportunities in the opening 15 minutes of the second half, although a short lineout move between Dan Collier and James Penman enabled Albion to make a rare foray into Jersey territory.
The home side claimed the first try of the second period, another rolling maul affair finished by Charlie Butterworth, and then England Under 20 wing Tom Howe marked his Jersey debut with a try after good approach work by Adair and recently-arrived substitute Jack Moates.
The game was opening up and the attacking running of Jersey's backs, notably Oli Evans and another replacement, Rich Lane. The result was embellished courtesy of late scores for Nick Campbell, the lock using his long reach to stretch for the try, and Jack Burroughs, the latter the beneficiary of a fine break by former Bath man Lane - the 79th minute try was a highlight of the afternoon and sent the majority of the crowd home in good spirits.
Harvey Biljon was pleased with what the home club had gained from their first match of the season.
"It was a great hit-out and we faced a difficult challenge from a well-organised Plymouth side," he said. "There was definitely some nervousness and anxiety among the players, old and new and Plymouth took advantage of that early on, but I was pleased that our players reacted positively and were able to regroup. There'll be some positives to take away but also plenty of things to work on."
With injuries at hooker, Biljon paid tribute to the work of Nick Selway.
"Nick put in a great shift and impressed in the scrum, at the lineout and in open play - he'd needed to work hard with the physios this week to get himself ready and to do 70 minutes in the fashion he did is something he can be proud of, although what I'm now looking for him to do is back up today's display in the weeks to come."
Jersey's pre-season continues with the visit of Welsh Pro 12 side Scarlets next Saturday. The game at St Peter kicks off at 4pm and spaces are available for the pre-match lunch in the supporters' marquee (three-course lunch for £15) - reservations to Sean Dunne.
"It was just the sort of game we wanted and good to test ourselves against a team from a higher league," said Albion captain Cameron Setter, one of just two survivors (along with prop Dan Pullinger) from Albion's last trip to Jersey for November's British & Irish Cup match. "The first 15 minutes showed what we can do, and the players gelled well, but there are also areas we'll need to work on."
JERSEY: tries, Spinks 25, 35, Adair 30, Butterworth 56, Howe 62, Campbell 67, Burroughs 79; cons, Cope (2) Robling (2).
JERSEY: J Burroughs (R Lane 50), R Adair (J Burroughs 63), O Evans, L Robling, E Dawson (T Howe 45), B Cope (M McCrea 50), J Dudley (J Moates 57); S McCarthy (I Lancuba HT), N Selway (S McCarthy 69), D Herriott (C Garfagnoli 50), D Markham (N Campbell 57), N Campbell (P Phillips HT), A Rae (capt) (J Freeman HT), C Butterworth, T Spinks (N Haining 45).
ALBION: tries, Dacres 5, Ford 13; con, Bale; pen, Bale.
ALBION: E Ford, R Wedlake, J Murphy, T Bedford, S Raumakita, E Bale, C Setter (capt); R Freestone, J Penman, D Pullinger, E Holmes, D Collier, N Dacres, J Hayler, H Stupple. Replacements: D Brooker, C Judge, R Crang, C Courtier, B Hawley, B Searle, G De Mendonca, T Putt, O Dawe, A Chesters.
REF: Simon Harding (RFU). ARs: Andrew Pearce, Fergus Kirby