A strong, determined and disciplined display by Jersey Reds saw them dominate a fast flowing game of rugby and run in eight tries.
Played on the artificial 4G surface at The Wern Sportsground, home of Merthyr RFC, the game was likely to present a different sort of challenge to the visiting Reds, but the boys adapted well, and the first try from Cuthbert came soon after kick-off following good attacking play. Katz converted from the touchline, and the scene was set.
The Blues picked up two quick penalties following the restart, and having run the first to get into the Reds territory, they opted for a straight-forward kick from in front of the posts with the second to narrow the gap.
Jersey were already showing signs of dominance in both the scrum and line-out, but when awarded a simple penalty of their own in front of the posts at the other end, they took the points on offer to re-establish the seven-point margin.
Thereafter the visitors continued to build phases from the solid platform being provided by the forwards, and scored their second of the afternoon from a third phase play after a successful catch and drive move with McCarthy getting the touchdown – his first score for the Reds in his 79th game!
Although the Reds lost Cuthbert for 10 minutes after the full-back was yellow-carded for an illegal tackle, his team-mates extended their lead during his absence. Haining was the try-scorer from close range about five minutes before the break, and the sides turned round with Jersey holding a 3-22 advantage.
No sooner had the second half kicked off, and Jersey were back on the scoresheet with their fourth try, scored by Hardy to secure the bonus point. Katz missed that conversion from out wide, but the points kept coming as Haining crossed for his second try – and Jersey’s fifth – pretty much straight after the next restart.
Macfarlane added the sixth and Argyle the seventh as the Reds pack drove over from a five-metre scrum. Jersey’s dominance in the set-piece finally resulted in the Blues losing a player to the sin bin, but rather than continue solely on that one line of attack, the Reds used the platform to spread the ball wide, and to attack from all angles.
As the second half went on, new signing Callum Sheedy was introduced and slotted in very well, with accurate kicking for territory and one fine break from deep in our own territory, carrying the ball 20 yards into the opposition half. The ball was recycled and following more phases it was prop forward Armstrong on the crash who finished the move off with a fine score.
Although hampered by playing half of the second period with 14 men as a result of yellow cards for prop Ben Leung and centre Harri Millard, the Blues XV certainly played their part in an entertaining encounter, and were never going to lie down. They got a consolation try through winger James Beal to finish the match, having started a move from deep in their own 22.
Following the final whistle, which sets up a ‘winner takes all’ with Ulster next week, Harvey Biljon was full of praise for his players. “What pleased me most was how we stuck to the task and didn’t get carried away. We had a game plan, and it was well executed throughout.”
He continued to say, “This was an important return for Pierce Phillips, and I thought the way that he led the team following six-month lay-off was superb. I was also impressed with Callum Sheedy, who slotted in very well having only had one real training session with the team”.
The five points gained from a first win in Wales at the fourth attempt in the B&I cup sets up a pool decider at St Peter next Saturday when the Reds (18 points) host Ulster ‘A’ (19).
The winner will not only top the pool, but is also guaranteed a home quarter-final. The match at St Peter this Saturday kicks off at 2pm and advance tickets can be obtained HERE
Cardiff Blues Select (1-15):
Rhys Carre, Liam Belcher, Ben Leung (YC 43), Ben Murphy, Callum Bradbury, Nick White, Shane Lewis-Hughes (capt), Phil Rees, Dane Blacker, Ben Jones, Teri Gee, Harri Millard (YC 65), Cameron Lewis, James Beal, Gareth Thompson.
Joe Tomlinson, Tom Malby, Will Davies-King, Morgan Sieniawski, Liam Free, Declan Williams, Diggy Bird.
Jersey Reds (1-15):
Sean McCarthy, Jack Macfarlane, Simon Kerrod, Uili Kolo’ofa’i, Pierce Phillips (capt), Max Argyle, James Doyle, Nick Haining; Kieran Hardy, Sam Katz, Ross Adair, Kuki Ma’afu, Jordan Davies, George Watkins, Jack Cuthbert (YC 22).
Joe Buckle, Jake Woolmore, Jake Armstrong, James Freeman, Nick Campbell, Joel Dudley, Callum Sheedy.
Referee: Nigel Correll (IRFU); Assistants: Gareth Newman (WRU) & Gerwyn Taylor (WRU)
Half Time: 3-22
Man-of-the-match: Pierce Phillips
Tries: Cuthbert, McCarthy, Haining (2), Hardy, Macfarlane, Argyle, Armstrong
Conversions: Katz (6)