On a cold, wet and miserable day in Bedford it was Jersey who stuck to their game plan, and with a stunning second half fight back did enough to warm the hearts of the large contingent of travelling support.
Bedford, with the slight slope advantage were quickly into their stride from the off, testing the Jersey defence to the max. Le Bourgeois was in the thick of it against his home island going close and still Jersey held firm, but in doing so conceded a few penalties. As the visitors infringed, Bedford opted to kick to the corner and so it was that their first score came just after ten minutes when the home side powered over from a catch and drive move, Tupai registering the score that went unconverted.
As the half went on Jersey started to build momentum, but couldn’t break down the stubborn home defence. Jersey too were looking to use their tried and tested catch and drive, and with just under ten minutes of the half to go looked to be on track for a score. Bedford illegally stopped the drive with Blanchett picking up a yellow card in the process, but the resulting line-out was over-thrown and a chance went begging.
With the Reds pressing hard, Bedford picked up their second score completely against the run of play as Dorrian and White countered with a move that was finished off by Griffiths; Dorrian added the extras.
Jersey pressed again looking to make the man advantage count, and again Bedford illegally infringed, this time with Tupai seeing yellow, and that was pretty much the last of the action as Bedford held out to go in at half time leading 12-0.
Playing against thirteen men at the start of the second half, Jersey were quick to assert pressure and scored first through Tom Howe, put in by Sami Fisilau who was having a blinder. Cope converted.
As Jersey continued to apply pressure, Cope opted to kick a penalty to further reduce the arrears – 12-10 – before Bedford extended the lead again with a deftly struck drop goal by Dorrian – 15-10.
Soon after, Fish got himself onto the scoresheet as he picked and drove from the base of a maul, and with Cope adding the extras Jersey took the lead for the first time.
From there on the game ebbed and flowed, Bedford regained the lead with a penalty of their own and still Jersey pressed on. With the high intensity amongst the forwards tempers flared on more than one occasion, but it was Jersey who were keeping their cool and composure.
With Jersey on the front foot and seeking the decisive score, Blanchett picked up his second yellow card and ended his afternoon. Jersey advanced into the Bedford half and soon after won a penalty from a scrum that Cope stroked over to edge the Reds back in front 18-20.
Defying the odds of being a man down, Bedford were enjoying more of the possession in the closing stages, but as the ball went loose on the right it was Richard Lane who pounced to race away and touch down to seal the win with his first try for the Islanders.
After the game a delighted vice Chairman, Mark Morgan who had been part of the BBC commentary team said, “What an amazing win. Jersey were imperious in defence and Sami Fisilau had the best game I’ve seen him play for the Reds to keep driving us forward. It was tense at times, but ultimately exciting and a great result”.
Jersey now have a week off before entertaining London Welsh at home on Saturday 27th February, one of two sides we are yet to beat at this level (the other being Bristol), at the earlier kick off time of 2pm.
Jersey will be back at Goldington road on Friday 11th March to take on Bedford Blues in the quarter-final of the B&I cup, in what is bound to be another highly-charged encounter.
Bedford Blues: O’Conor, Tapley, Le Bourgeois, Griffiths, Blanchet, Dorrian, White, Parilli-Ocampo, Clare, Alo, Tupai, Wells, Blanchet, Buggea, Fenton-Wells.
Replacements: James, Currie, Thompson-Stringer, Conlon, Burns, Jones, Staff.
Jersey: Adair; Howe, Evans, Cooke, Lane, Cope, Fisilau, Lockwood, Garcia-Veiga, Kerrod, Kolo’ofa’i, Campbell, Rae, Freeman, Haining.
Replacements (all used): McCarthy, Selway, Herriott, Markham, Spinks, Moates, Owen
Referee: Matt O’Grady (RFU)
Tries: Tupai, Griffiths
Drop Goal: Dorrian
YC: Blanchet x 2 (Red), Tupai
Tries: Howe, Fisilau, Lane
Conversion: Cope (2)
Penalty: Cope (2)
Star man: Sami Fisilau