Jersey Reds 17 Bristol 3628/10/2017
A torrent of four tries in 10 first-half minutes left league leaders Bristol out of reach of a plucky Jersey Reds.
Having harboured hopes of taking down top-of-table visitors for the third time in four seasons, the home side were blown away as visiting scrum-half Rhodri Williams bagged a hat-trick.
After 14 minutes Jersey temporarily lost both second rows, James Voss and Jerry Sexton following a clash of heads, although both returned after assessment. By this point the visitors had edged ahead thanks to a well-struck penalty by Ian Madigan, and then gained a man advantage when Reds number 8 Rory Pitman was yellow-carded for a penalty offence close to his try-line, a decision the home support felt was harsh.
By the time Pitman returned, Bristol has flexed their muscles in ruthless fashion. First Steve Luatua finished off a well-worked catch-and-drive, and then Williams struck for his seven-minute triple whammy. Firstly he finished off a 60-metre counter-attack involving Luatua and Chris Vui, then it was Joe Joyce who supplied the scoring pass after another devastating thrust. Finally Luke Morahan picked up a loose ball on half-way and tore up the touchline before jinking inside and finding Williams yet again in support.
The Welsh scrum-half might have had a fourth try after bursting through only to be hauled down by Reds skipper Scott van Breda, who had moved from full-back to fly-half following an injury to team-mate Brendan Cope. Van Breda engineered his side's opening score just before the break when his cross-kick was superbly caught at full stretch by Tom Pincus, who stretched over for the try. Jersey could at least take heart from the try, and the fact that they'd very much held their own in the tight.
Cheered on by a season-high crowd, home hopes flickered brightest early in the second half after Chris Vui was sin-binned for one transgression too many (the away camp took a similarly dim view of this decision as Jersey had to Pitman's, so perhaps honours even?). The Reds scored two more tries - a rolling maul finished by Nick Selway, and then replacement Joel Dudley touching down after good work from Matt Rogerson and Pincus. A bonus point, or possibly two, seemed achievable for the Reds, but Bristol snuffed out the comeback when replacement Billy Searle broke forward and found his captain Luatua with a deft offload, setting up the All Black for a gallop to the line that included an audacious dummy.
The Reds still had hopes of a fourth try, especially from a penalty when a Mark Best touch-finder sailed into touch very close to the corner-flag in the pavillion corner. Lineout ball was secured, but a massive effort at the maul by the forwards and several backs who lent a hand couldn't execute a successful maul.
Jersey Head Coach Harvey Biljon was a frustrated figure after the final whistle as his side came away empty-handed.
"I thought we absolutely deserved something from that match - it was a very difficult first half, a couple of decisions went against us and the players were left to solve problems caused by the injuries we had.
"We recovered well and I think supporters can be proud of the effort put in by the players, but it was still very frustrating - that's something we'll have to channel in November which includes some very important games against London Scottish [the Reds' next match on Friday November 10 at Stade Santander International} and Rotherham."
Bristol Head Coach Pat Lam was delighted to see his side come away with maximum points.
"We knew Jersey had beaten the likes of Worcester and London Irish in the past and it's a difficult place to play, especially when the wind is blowing," he said. "The boys were committed and showed a lot of character - we wanted to be ruthless, especially while the wind was behind us, and when we scored to go again."
JERSEY REDS: Van Breda (c); Pincus, Best, Ma'afu (Dudley 49), Slowik; Cope (Worrall 23), Hardy; Woolmore (Godfrey 66), Selway (Saunders 61), Armstrong (Atalifo 51), Voss (Kolo'ofa'i 14-18, 58), Sexton (Bartle 14-18), Rogerson, Joyce, Pitman (Bartle 66).
BRISTOL: Williams J (Protheroe 66); Morahan, Leiua, Pisi, Varndell; Madigan (Searle 63), Williams R (Uren 57); Tonga’uiha (O'Connell 66), Harris-Wright (Gompels 70), Thomas N (Giltrow 70), Joyce (Fenton-Wells 64), Vui, Jeffries, Thomas D, Luatua (c).
REFEREE: Dean Richards. Assistants: Lionel Spooner & Brian Ravenhill
Half Time: 5-29
Man-of-the-match (as selected by match sponsor Barclays): Rhodri Williams (Bristol)
Tries: Pincus 38, Selway 46, Dudley 55
Conversion: Pincus 55
Tries: Luatua 18, 65, R Williams 21, 25, 27
Conversions: Madigan 18, 21, 25, Searle 65
Penalty: Madigan 15