Bristol 54 Jersey 14
Greene King IPA Championship
by Tom Innes
Jersey faced something of a mismatch against a club with
Premiership ambitions and credentials, finishing a distant second
at the Memorial Stadium.
After five seasons in the second tier of English rugby, Bristol are
looking to return to the top flight and Andy Robinson's team
dismantled the Island side with four tries in each half. Jersey had
the consolation of two fine tries stemming from flowing
threequarter moves, but otherwise were outmuscled in the forwards,
and left licking their wounds and needing to bounce back strongly
when Nottingham visit St Peter next Saturday.
Both sides showed a willingness to run the ball in spite of a pitch
that tended towards the soft and greasy after the heavy rainfall
that hit the west of England throughout January (it was fortunate
that the first two days of February were to prove drier). Bristol's
first try after 10 minutes stemmed from a kick through that was
fielded by Elvis Taione; after chasing back, Jersey's hooker then
found himself isolated and was forced to surrender possession and
it was Bristol scrum-half Luke Baldwin who took advantage to race
through and score (as pictured below).
The home side's tally doubled when a penalty was kicked to touch
some 12 metres out and a driving maul rumbled up to, and over, the
Jersey line with debutant Ross Rennie claiming the points.
Jersey's second serious foray into the opposition half brought
their first points. Tom Brown made an impressive 20-metres break
from a scrum. He was brought down just short but then after a
couple of forward drives the ball was fed wide: McCrea, Locke,
Burroughs, Foster - try. Niall O'Connor stroked over a splendid
conversion from the touchline and it was 14-7.
Baldwin looked the man most likely to spark his side's next score,
but was thwarted by an excellent cover tackle by Burroughs and then
threw a pass that a prop for the Extra B's would have been ashamed
of, when Nick Koster would surely otherwise have scored.
Jersey were struggling to compete at the scrum - a rare event in
the Championship - and more Bristol pressure led to Luke Eves
having a dart from close range. The centre was caught a metre out
by O'Connor but had the strength to force his way over with
Jersey's fly-half still clinging to him.
Nicky Griffiths' touch kick gained Jersey more than 60 metres, but
the attacking platform was lost and Bristol's Nicky Robinson was
soon exploiting a gap in midfield to surge through a and slip a
scoring pass to the lively hooker Ross Johnston. The bonus point
was secure, even if Robinson did miss the conversion - it was to be
the only unsuccessful attempt of the afternoon - with the final
kick of the half.
Sam Lockwood was brought on at the break and proceeded to make a
lively debut, as prominent in loose play as the man he replaced,
An excellent wrap-around tackle by Mark Foster prevented a fifth
try for the home side, but the respite lasted barely 30 seconds and
Bristol fed the ball wide and sublime hands from Marco Mama
presented a try on a plate to lock Ben Glynn.
Jersey claimed their second try from a first phase move cited
afterwards as one of the few bright points by Head Coach Harvey
Biljon. It was a lineout around 15 metres out, well won and
Griffiths fired the ball out to his threequarters. Drew Locke took
it in the fly-half position, passed to O'Connor and then the ball
was slipped to a Foster running at pace through the midfield from
the opposite wing. The former Gloucester and Exeter man might have
scored his second try, but when he was detained just short, Grant
Pointer was able to finish the job and O'Connor again added the
In an open game, well refereed by the Argentine Francisco
Pastrana, Jersey retained hope of a bonus point, and gained the
perfect platform for try number three with an attacking lineout
just five metres out. But the ball was lost and before too long
Ruki Tipuna had added a sixth Bristol try within 20 seconds of
taking the field as Bristol attacked from a lineout.
The indignity of a penalty try from a retreating scrum took the
tally against to Jersey past the 41 scored by Plymouth in
September, and in the final play it equalled the highest
Championship concession by the Islanders. Rennie scored his second
in the corner and replacement Adrian Jarvis converted to take his
side to 54 points, the same total as Rotherham scored in defeating
Jersey 54-31 in September 2012.
Harvey Biljon said after the match:
"It was a tough day at the office for us and something of a reality
check. I can say that our endeavour to continue playing attacking
rugby was probably the only thing we can take away from this
"Bristol really forced us to play and showed great physicality - we
were outmuscled and our set piece was taken away from us and that
hasn't been something that has happened to Jersey - the scrum and
lineout weren't there and that hurt us.
"We did score a really good try off first phase ball - the backs
played well whereas in recent games the forwards have been our
dominant unit - the challenge is for backs and forwards to deliver
About the need to regroup for the Nottingham game, Biljon added:
"We have spoken already [in the dressing room after the game] as a
group about what we need to do - it's going to be about our
reaction, both in training and on the pitch next Saturday. I don't
want us to obsess about beating Nottingham, but I do expect us to
hit our performance targets, both defensively and in terms of
taking scoring opportunities, and the results should follow.
"The next three to five weeks will be huge and I'm going to find
out a lot about the players, including their attitude both on and
off the field and their work ethic. Professionalism is still
relatively new to this club and players who are young or haven't
been in a full-time professional environment before need to learn
what it means to be a professional day-in and day-out."
On being told that bottom club Ealing had achieved an 18-all draw
against Cornish Pirates, Biljon continued his reluctance to look
over his shoulder. "That's a numbers game that's going on behind us
and I don't want to get distracted by it," he said.
Jersey's other consolation was to see another play-off
contender, Leeds Carnegie, win by an even greater margin, by 50-6
over Bedford, in the other game on Sunday. On Saturday Rotherham
moved to the top of the table, defeating Moseley 16-6, while
previous leaders London Welsh went down 35-16 at Plymouth.
Nottingham beat London Scottish 15-3 on Friday. Rotherham lead
Welsh by three points, with Leeds and Bristol two points further
back, Bristol with a game in hand. See HERE for full league
Auguy Slowik; George Watkins, Bryan Rennie*, Luke Eves, Andy Short;
Nicky Robinson*, Luke Baldwin*; Kyle Traynor*, Ross Johnston*,
James Hall, Ben Glynn, Mark Sorenson (c)*, Nick Koster, Ross
Rennie, Marco Mama*.
Replacements (all used): Rhys Lawrence, Gaston Cortes,
Glen Townson, Mitch Eadie, Ruki Tipuna, Adrian Jarvis, Jack
Jack Burroughs; Grant Pointer, Drew Locke, Mark McCrea, Mark
Foster; Niall O'Connor*, Nicky Griffiths*; Sean McCarthy*, Elvis
Taione*, Dave Young*, Nick Campbell*, Dave Markham*, Alex Rae
(capt), Joe Buckle, Tom Brown.
Replacements (all used): David Felton, Nick Selway, Sam
Lockwood, James Voss, Latu Makaafi, Jimmy Williams, David
* denotes players who were replaced
18 May 2023
DoR pays tribute to leaving players after title-winning season