A magnificent game in which the lead changed hands seven times finished with a narrow defeat for the Reds against the division’s second-placed side.
For the second straight week the Reds had to be content with a losing bonus point, plus a certain satisfaction at knowing they’d pushed big-spending Ealing Trailfinders all the way.
Brendan Cope gave the home side the lead with an early penalty that went in off the upright. Steven Shingler replied in kind three minutes later and the Londoners were soon ahead as they built a strong set of phases which ended with skipper Rayn Smid finishing powerfully.
A decision to kick to the corner paid dividends for Jersey when a rolling maul pressed inexorably across the field towards the posts, with TJ Harris eventually breaking off and crashing over.
The Reds soaked up considerable pressure in the closing stages of the half and eventually conceded a penalty which allowed Shingler to give his side a single-point lead going into the break.
Another Shingler penalty, following a good break through midfield by centre Harry Sloan, extended the lead soon after the resumption but the Reds then upped their levels in a bid to get back into the game.
On-loan Dragons centre Connor Edwards made a hole in the Ealing defence and after Kyle Hatherell took the ball on, Will Homer picked up from the base of the ruck and sniped his way to the line.
The visitors responded within two minutes, replacement scrum-half Nathan Fowles finding Pat Howard with a scoring pass.
An impressive counter-attack sparked by Samoan international Rodney Iona led to the Reds’ third try, with Cope finding Homer for a 35-metre sprint to the line which restored his side’s lead.
With 12 minutes to play, replacement fly-half Craig Willis fed prop Elliot Millar-Mills who ploughed over from close range for what turned out to be the winning score. Willis also landed an important conversion which meant that the Reds needed a try to win.
There were chances for the Reds in the dying moments, and Arwel Robson almost set up replacement scrum-half Luc Jones for a try, but two strong scrums brought a penalty that ended Jersey hopes.
“I’m disappointed to have lost although I thought my players showed a huge amount of character today and I’m chuffed that they responded to the challenge of playing a quality outfit,” said Jersey Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon.
“We were in position to win the game but we couldn’t see it through – it probably came down to two or three critical moments when it would have been very different if we’d managed to convert.”
JERSEY REDS: Cope; Morgan (Jones 65), Iona, Edwards (Spencer 2-13), Slowik; Robson, Homer; Godfrey (Morley 65), Harris, Clarey (Alexis 56), Hallam-Eames (Beckett 62), Bartle, Upfield, Bainbridge (c), Hatherell (Joyce 69). Unused replacements: Dolly, Penberthy
EALING TRAILFINDERS: Lydon; Howard, Tovey, Sloan (Davis L 69), Joseph; Shingler (Willis 56); Hampson (Fowles 56); Els (Davis W 59), Walker (Cornish 62), Millar-Mills (Davis G 75), West, Cannon (Dickinson 66), Buckley (Korczyk 59), Reid, Smid (c)
REFEREE: Anthony Woodthorpe. Assistants: Greg Garner, Nigel Carrick
Tries: Harris 20, Homer 48, 62
Conversions: Cope 20, 48, 62
Penalty: Cope 3
Tries: Smid 13, Howard 50, Millar-Mills 68
Conversions: Willis 50, 68
Penalties: Shingler 6, 37, 42
31 Mar 2023
Five games remain to define Championship season