The Reds made a strong start to the new league season in scoring five tries and claiming maximum points against Ampthill at the Olney Arena in Dillingham Park.
The match began with players, officials and spectators coming together to honour Queen Elizabeth II, two days after the passing of the monarch who also held the title of Duke of Normandy in Jersey.
On a bright and breezy day that stayed dry after a brief shower ahead of kick-off, the Reds were ahead within seven minutes as Aussie winger Ben Woollett broke inside powerfully to the line, Russell Bennett converting against his old club.
Having scored twice against London Irish in pre-season, Woollett doubled up once again when he took advantage of an overlap to score. The hosts immediately suffered a further blow after a head-knock for captain Charlie Beckett which – after assessment – left the former Red unable to continue.
Shorn of Beckett’s leadership and weight in the maul and scrum, Ampthill came under pressure from the visitors. Hooker Syd Blackmore was shown a yellow card as the penalty count mounted, and then the Reds were awarded a penalty try when a maul was brought down.
Ollie Stonham got the Ampthill Mob on the scoreboard just after the hour mark thanks to an assist from Wasps’ loanee Ricky Ma’asi-White, but the visitors restored their 19-point advantage on the stroke of half-time when number eight Alun Lawrence went over.
Although Ma’asi-White claimed the hosts’ second try with an interception soon after the break, Ampthill were again reduced to 14 with Josh Skelcey sin-binned, and just before the winger’s return his opposite number struck. One of 11 new signings making a league debut for the Reds, former Scarlets man Tomi Lewis was in the right place to cross for a try to add to the one claimed against Bath in pre-season.
A mauled try by Theo Dan with 15 minutes to play reduced the arrears to 21-33 and gave the home side some hope, but Brendan Cope, one of eight Jersey replacements introduced between the 48th and 65th minutes, stretched the advantage with a well-struck penalty from 40 metres with 10 minutes to play, The kick turned out to be the final act of scoring, leaving the Reds with five points and ranked alongside Nottingham, Ealing, Hartpury and Coventry at the top of the table.
Next weekend the Reds will play their home opener, with Coventry the visitors to Stade Santander International for a game that will kick off at 3pm on Saturday 17th September. Ampthill start the season with back-to-back home games and will take on Ealing next Saturday.
Following the separation of the professional and amateur arms of Jersey rugby this summer, the amateur Jersey RFC side played their first league match in Counties 1 Hampshire and defeated Havant 2nds 50-12.
Jersey Reds (15-9, 1-8, * = competitive debut): Scott Van Breda; Ben Woollett*, Alex McHenry*, Jordan Holgate, Tomi Lewis*; Russell Bennett*, James Mitchell; Sam Grahamslaw*, Antonio ‘TJ’ Harris, Steve Longwell, Sean O’Connor, Macauley Cook, James Dun*, Lewis Wynne (c), Alun Lawrence.
Replacements: James Hadfield*, Greg McGrath*, Monty Weatherby*, Hamish Bain*, Max Argyle; James Elliott, Brendan Cope, Charlie Powell*.
Ampthill & District: Rankin; Skelcey (YC 50), Ma’asi-White, Hartley, Cambriani; Hardwick T, Craven; Ellwood, Blackmore (YC 22), Hardwick R, Beckett, Jones, Wilson, Ryan, Stonham.
Replacements: Dan, Warren, Hardman, Fisilau, Tunney, Finlay, Parks, Jackson
Referee: Mike Hudson. Assistants: Lionel Spooner, Darryl Chapman
Tries: Stonham 33, Ma’asi-White 48, Dan 64
Conversions: Hardwick 33, 48, 64
Tries: Woollett 7,17, Penalty try 25, Lawrence 40, Lewis 60
Conversions: Bennett 7, 40, Cope 60
Penalty: Cope 70
Why not come a chillout in the supporters marquee before the game, A fully stocked bar and food is available, seated and standing tables, on a first come first served basis and a great place to meet the Reds supporters.