Jersey Reds 13 Ealing Trailfinders 1901/01/2017
A tough day at the office for the Reds, who ended up narrowly defeated by an Ealing side who moved back into the top four of the Championship thanks to a fifth win in six matches between the clubs at this level.
A poor start from the home side might have been terminal, but in fact they were able to weather the storm and turn down just three points adrift. The second half was a much closer affair and featured some late Jersey pressure, however a potential winning score did not materialise.
The visitors enjoyed the lions' share of possession soon after the kick-off and were able to control field position thanks to the kicking game of former Red Aaron Penberthy. This led to a series of scoring opportunities, the first points coming from Penberthy's drop goal as his team were given a penalty advantage.
Soon afterwards Lewis Jones raced onto Penberthy's kick ahead but failed to execute a potential scoring pass to colleagues, but soon afterwards fellow centre Joe Munro crashed over after a series of phases.
Jersey efforts to counter were hampered by a badly-malfunctioning lineout, and to make matters worse lock Nick Campbell was awarded a yellow card for foul play. However the home team survived his absence and in fact thrived, gaining field position thanks to charges by James Freeman and Heath Stevens, and then scoring a close range try from Simon Kerrod, converted from the touchline by Sam Katz.
Ealing looked to get the last word before half-time, but were thwarted by solid home defence. One Dave McKern turnover, with the ball cleared a huge distance downfield by Katz, stood out but there were a number of similar moments.
In the early stages of the second half Penberthy and Katz slotted each to maintain the three-point margin going into the final quarter, but neither side were able to set up a platform for a try. The Reds had a chance from a lineout and maul near the airport corner, only to lose another lineout, and also went very close when Sean McCarthy crashed over but was adjudged to have been in touchwhen the visitors countered Penberthy was able to add another penalty.
Luke Daniels, taking on the kicking duties after Penberthy was replaced, could have put his side out of sight with a 70th-minute penalty but failed to hit the target and there was still a chance for the Reds.
A scrum close to the Ealing line looked like a good opportunity and the Reds won two penalties and a free-kick from a series of scrums which brought a warning to Ealing from the referee and could have led to a penalty try. But the next scrum was won by Ealing after the Reds couldn't get the ball back in order to apply pressure, and the penalty for the visitors allowed them to clear the ball. There was a short delay while the referee checked whether time was up with the fourth official, but the full 80 minutes had elapsed and the final whistle blew.
A disappointed Head Coach bemoaned a tough brace of festive results for his side, who had to be content with three bonus points in defeats to Bedford and Ealing, and slipped to eighth in the Championship table.
"We lost to a strong outfit but we need to look at ourselves - there were a lot of inaccuracies, especially in the first half, and although we clawed our way back into it we couldn't get the points we needed," said Harvey Biljon.
"Ealing had done their homework on our lineout, but our own processes weren't as they should have been.
"There were some key moments that didn't go our way - a potential red card offence early in the game, the Sean McCarthy try and then the final scrum which left us confused about how the laws were being enforced.
"We've been operating with a small squad recently so the week off comes at a good time - we'll be back for the B&I Cup, when I expect to face a very different Blues side in Wales, followed by a match against Ulster that should be a real cracker. I'm still hopeful that we can get the results we need to progress to the quarter-finals, preferably at home."
JERSEY REDS: Adair; Watkins, Ma'afu, Stevens, Davies; Katz, Hardy (Fisilau 52); Thomas (McCarthy 67), Buckle (Macfarlane 31), Kerrod (Tampin 67), Campbell (YC 25) (Argyle 72), McKern (Kolo'ofa'i 46), Freeman (c), Graham, Haining. Not used: Dudley
EALING TRAILFINDERS: Daniels; Harries, Jones, Munro, Cordy-Redden; Penberthy (Peters 68), Carter; Gibbons (Davis 62), Alun Walker (Cornish 69), Thiede (Rodman 49), Maddison (Casson 63), Townson (Preocanin 78), Murphy, Nagle-Taylor, Bright (c). Not used: Alex Walker
REFEREE: Christophe Ridley; Assistants: Clare Daniels, Dan Parrott
Half Time: 7-10
Star Man-of-the-match (as chose by match-day sponsor Carey Olsen): Kieran Murphy (Ealing Trailfinders)
Try: Kerrod 32
Conversion: Katz 32
Penalties: Katz 48, 53
Try: Munro 18
Conversion: Penberthy 18
Penalties: Penberthy 45, 51, 66
Drop Goal: Penberthy 14