Jersey Reds 19 Cornish Pirates 1316/09/2017
Magnficent defence in the closing stages enabled the Reds to hold on for their second victory in three Championship outings so far this season.
Having scored three first half tries, the home team were unable to add to their points tally during the second period at Stade Santander International, but maintained their lead in the face of considerable pressure from the visiting Cornish Pirates.
After a 15-minute delay to kick-off due to a flight delay which meant the Pirates didn't reach the ground until just before 7pm, the match began at a high tempo. After a series of forward drives, the Reds spread the ball wide and Tom Pincus went over in the corner. Laurence May got the visitors on the board with a penalty, but then Pincus struck again with an irresistible intervention into the line that took him to the line, crowning a further spell of Jersey pressure.
The Pirates recovered well and used a penalty advantage following a high tackle to score a try through Pete Laverick after centre partner Nicolas de Battista made the breakthrough.
Making use of an extra man after Pirates prop Jack Andrew saw yellow for slowing down the ball illegally, following a team warning, the home side stretched their lead on the stroke of half-time. Mark Best intercepted and surged forward; his team-mates were quickly up in support and eventually Roy Godfrey barrelled over.
An early penalty by May after the resumption helped the visitors back into the game and thereafter there were chances for both teams. This included some spectacular work in attack under the high ball from Pincus and opposing wing Alex O'Meara, but neither man was able to release colleagues for a try.
The Reds had one kickable penalty to stretch their lead but declined this in search of a fourth try, however they could not execute the rolling maul. Otherwise it was the Pirates who were the dominant force in attack in the closing stages, but the Reds' defensive wall held firm, eventually forcing the handling errors that relieved the pressure and then the final whistle.
Reds Head Coach Harvey Biljon was pleased to see the composure of his new squad in claiming the win.
"It was a great match for the supporters I'm sure and has always been a hell of a fixture, although after the closing stages you don't need to ask me why I'm bald," he said. "Once again we came through and showed great character and work ethic.
"There was adversity for both teams in the build-up, the Pirates with their travel problems and we lost our captain in the warm-up and then had first-half injuries to Dave McKern and Mark Best.
"The speed with which we were playing the ball in the first half showed where we want to be; I thought both sides got a bit anxious in the last 20 minutes and it became a bit of an arm-wrestle, but there was lots to learn and we coped well under pressure.
"In a way it was disappointing not to score points after half-time, the way we should take the opportunity to push on for a bonus point was one of the learning points."
Pirates Co-Coach Gavin Cattle was disappointed that a malfunctioning lineout denied his side the "launch-plays" they needed to take more from the game.
"Our lineout collapsed a bit and that's something major we'll need to work on, which is a shame as the physicality, fitness and commitment of the boys was excellent," he said. "The travel delays weren't ideal, but I felt the players were mentally switched on at kick-off, and showed character to stay in the game."
The Reds' next Championship commitment is an away trip to Richmond next Saturday, before they return to action at Stade Santander International against Bedford Blues on Saturday September 30th - kick-off at 3pm. Advance tickets available through Eventbrite - LINK
Jersey Reds (1-15)
Roy Godfrey (capt) (replaced by Jake Woolmore 50 mins), Jared Saunders (Nick Selway 70), Jake Armstrong (Leeroy Atalifo 54), Dave McKern (Rory Bartle 28), Jerry Sexton, Matt Rogerson, Conor Joyce, Rory Pitman (Max Argyle 48); Kieran Hardy, Brendan Cope; Ellis Abrahams (Joel Dudley 73), Apakuki Ma'afu, Mark Best (Oli Bryant 41), Tom Pincus; Jason Worrall.
Cornish Pirates (1-15)
Marlen Walker (replaced by Christian Judge 63 mins), Tom Cowan-Dickie, Jack Andrew (YC 28, Will Keast 52), Josh Caulfield, Toby Freeman, Rupert Cooper (Dan Lee 63), Matt Bolwell, (Keast 28-38) Tom Lawday (Tom Duncan 52); Alex Day, Laurence May; Kyle Moyle, Nicolas De Battista (capt), Pete Laverick, Alex O'Meara; Toby May
Unused replacements: Mike Pope, Will Cargill, Dan Koster.
REFEREE: Christophe Ridley; Assistants: Karl Dickson, Lionel Spooner
Half Time: 19-10
Man-of-the-match (as chosen by match sponsor Cazenove Capital): Tom Pincus
Tries: Pincus 7, 18, Godfrey 38
Conversions: Cope 18, 38
Try: Laverick 21
Conversion: L May 21
Penalties: L May 13, 43