Rotherham Titans 14 Jersey Reds 4519/11/2017
Jersey turned on the style to register an emphatic six tries to one victory over a Rotherham side who now seem destined for relegation.
The Reds' fourth league win of the season was built on some clinical finishing, solid defence and an efficient set piece, with 15 points from the boot of Brendan Cope to ice the cake.
The Titans have now gone almost 10 months without a league win and need to kick-start any hopes of survival when they host London Scottish this Saturday. Some elements of the home support sounded pessimistic about their team's prospects in National 1, let alone the level above where they have played for the past 14 seasons.
But while there was some sympathy from the visitors for their hosts over a post-match pint, Jersey are a professional squad with a job to do and a focus on moving away from the bottom of the Greene King IPA Championship table. And after struggling to overcome 11th-placed London Scottish at home eight days previously, the Reds were cool, calm and efficient in nullifying the basement side's efforts.
The visitors made a perfect start with a drive into their opponents' half straight from the kick-off through the runs of Auguy Slowik and Seb Nagle-Taylor. Quick ball from a ruck about 15 metres from the Titans' line was fed right, Tom Pincus broke a tackle and touched down with the clock showing 85 seconds.
An early concern for Jersey was getting on the wrong side of referee Steve Lee, with five penalties conceded inside the opening quarter of an hour, three of which were within the extensive range of fly-half Caolan Ryan, who put his side ahead by 7-9.
With team warnings and yellow cards potentially looming around, the Reds managed to regain their composure. Just five more penalties were coughed up in the remainder of the game, and the balance shifted thanks to some good work in the forwards at scrums, lineouts and in open play. James Voss caught the eye with some thunderous runs from deep, and the back-row trio of Nagle-Taylor, Conor Joyce and Matt Rogerson maintained a massive work-rate.
Jersey gained some penalty awards of their own, and used the resulting opportunities to good effect. Two powerful mauls eventually culminated in Nagle-Taylor ghosting through from 15 metres out with barely a hand laid on him, and on two other occasions Cope went for three points; his first effort bounced back off the post - with no red-shirted players following up - but the second bisected the posts for the final score of the first period.
An early Titans score in the second half in front of their usually vociferous home crowd would have reignited the contest, and the Yorkshiremen almost achieved it, denied by Slowik's last-ditch tackle in the corner on Drew Cheshire and then a lineout steal on the same spot by Joyce.
Having soaked up some pressure, the Reds managed to get into enemy territory and good runs by Slowik and Pincus set up a try in the corner for Kieran Hardy. The scrum-half was over again from close range - after good work by Josh Hodson - for his second try of the game, and fifth of the season, soon after the hour mark and a full-points win was all but sewn up.
The home side, who had suffered a series of injuries, including Fijian back-row man Iferemi Boladau being helped off after just 10 minutes, were forced to chase the game and this meant opportunities for the their opponents, notably Pincus. The Aussie wing nearly repeated his catch-and-dive score against Bristol from an Oli Bryant cross-kick, but then used his sharp eye for an intercept to devastating effect in the dying stages. Twice in four minutes he pilfered the ball and crossed for the score, the only black mark from a Reds' point-of-view being when their defence - the third-tightest in the league - was breached for the only time as flanker Charlie Maddison barged over for a consolation score with two minutes left.
It was a record-breaking display from the Reds, who registered their highest points tally and biggest winning margin in 120 Championship matches to date, not to mention their first try bonus point of the current campaign. A six-try haul has only been bettered once during their five-and-a-half seasons in the second tier - the away match at Richmond in September 2016.
Although successive league wins haven't been enough to improve Jersey's 10th-placed status in the Championship rankings, the Reds can now eye mid-table over the final two rounds of league action before we reach the half-way mark of the season at the start of December. Sixth-placed Richmond are just four points clear and there's an immediate chance to overtake Yorkshire Carnegie - three points ahead in seventh place as things stand - when the men from Leeds visit Stade Santander International this Saturday. Advance tickets are available online via THIS LINK.
Harvey Biljon: "We've spoken about a big month and the pressure had showed in the London Scottish game, but today we handled the occasion well - we knew this would be a cup final for Rotherham," he said.
"There were some difficult spells in the game, but our young squad adapted well to the referee after conceding early penalties, and we put in some huge defensive sets when it mattered to keep them out.
"We had a few players who haven't played a lot of rugby, so it was great to see the likes of Seb Nagle-Taylor [chosen by the host club as Reds' man-of-the-match], Uili Kolo'ofa'i, Ellis Abrahams and Tom Quarrie contributing."
Tom Pincus: "I'd always say it was more fun getting an intercept than having to make a tackle! Having trust in the boys inside you to cover is key, so it was great to pick up some tries [three to make it eight league + one cup so far] and help us get the win and go two-out-of-two for the month."
Titans Head Coach Andy Key: "We've been very honest with ourselves in the huddle and have admitted that we just weren't good enough on the day. This was a massively important game and we'd trained well in the build-up, so it's hugely disappointing to have a result like this.
"We can't go toe-to-toe with a team like Jersey, but we thought we could be smarter and that we had a way to beat them, but when we were trying to play catch-up in the second half we ended up giving them more scoring chances."
Rotherham Titans (1-15)
Tom Williams, Luke Cole, Matt Shields, Adam Peters, Byron Hodge, Tom Calladine (capt), Charlie Maddison, Ifereimi Boladau; Rhodri Davies, Caolan Ryan; Jake Henry, Yiannis Loizias, Drew Cheshire; Ben Foley.
Dan Grange (for Boladau 10 mins), Logan Tibbetts (Henry 46), Lee Millar (L Peters 53), Toby Williams (Tom Williams 54), Jonny Murphy (Cole 62), Brandon Palmer (Shields 62), Matt Postlethwaite (A Peters 62),
Jersey Reds (1-15)
Jake Woolmore (capt), Nick Selway, Jake Armstrong, Jerry Sexton, James Voss, Conor Joyce, Seb Nagle-Taylor, Matt Rogerson; Kieran Hardy, Brendan Cope; Josh Hodson, Ellis Abrahams, Apakuki Ma'afu, Tom Pincus; Auguy Slowik.
Jared Saunders (for Selway 52 mins), Oli Bryant (Slowik 58 [HIA], Hodson 68), Leeroy Atalifo (Armstrong 59), Tom Quarrie (Voss 62), Roy Godfrey (Woolmore 64), Uili Kolo'ofa'i (Joyce 65); Joel Dudley (Hardy 66).
REFEREE: Steve Lee; Assistants: Rob Warburton, Nick Marshall
Half Time: 9-17
Try: Maddison 78
Penalties: Ryan 7, 10, 14
Tries: Pincus 2, 76, 79, Nagle-Taylor 22, Hardy 53, 65
Conversions: Cope 2, 22, 53, 65, 76, 79
Penalty: Cope 31