A powerful display by Jersey delivered a bonus-point win at the Galway Sportsground and kept the Island side in contention in this season’s British & Irish Cup.
The Jersey forwards were dominant throughout and forced an inexperienced Connacht side into a stream of errors and conceded penalties for which they were ruthlessly punished.
Number 8 Uili Kolo’ofa’i was the ‘driver’ for a series of driving mauls which delivered three tries for the Tongan international within the first half hour, while scrum-half Jack Moates pilfered the fourth shortly before the break.
Connacht had shown flashes of counter-attacking potential but had nothing to show for this in the first half apart from one penalty goal from two attempts by skipper Conor McKeon.
The Eagles came out for the second period determined to stop the rot and determined defence by both sides saw a scoreless half hour. The game opened up in the last 10 minutes, with the home side reduced to 14 men after a yellow card for replacement Matt Cosgrave due to his team’s persistent infringement.
Two of the late tries were Jersey’s: another driven effort for Kolo’ofa’i, and then the ball spun wide for centre Oli Evans to break through and touch down. Connacht’s spirit was rewarded with a fine attacking move finished off under the posts by Stephen Kearns.
Aaron Penberthy converted all four of Jersey’s first half tries, his only blemish a missed penalty with the final kick of the first half. Mark Cooke played fly-half for the final half hour and successfully converted the fifth Jersey try.
With Doncaster beating the Dragons Select by 21-16, Pool 5 is now evenly poised: Doncaster have 11 points, the Welsh side 10 and Jersey 8. Next Saturday, December 19th, Connacht Eagles, whose first team have been among the front-runners in the Guinness Pro12 this season, will travel to the Channel Islands for the return match. As a festive gesture to supporters, tickets for the match will be available at last season’s prices: £10 for members and £15 for non-members. Kick-off at St Peter will be at 2pm.
Jersey RFC (1-15): Nacho Lancuba, Nick Selway, Danny Herriott, Dave Markham, Pierce Phillips (capt), James Freeman, Tommy Spinks, Uili Kolo’ofa’i; Jack Moates, Aaron Penberthy, Ed Dawson, Mark Cooke, Oli Evans, Mark McCrea, Rich Lane.
Replacements: Will Rowlands for Phillips (43 min), Jack Burroughs for Dawson (52), Rhys Owen for Penberthy (52), Sean McCarthy for Lancuba (57), Russell Anderson for Selway (57), Joel Dudley for Moates (64), Ben Featherstone for Herriott (64).
Connacht Eagles (1-15): Jacob Walshe, Jack Dinneen, Saba Meunargia, Peter Claffey, Cillian Gallagher, Marc Kelly, Rory Moloney, Stephen McVeigh; Conor Lowndes, Conor McKeon (capt), Ed O’Keefe, Api Pewhairangi, Cormac Brennan, Adam Leavy, Ciarán Gaffney.
Replacements (all used): Juan Anaya Lazaro, Conor Kenny, Cian Romaine, Matthew Cosgrove (YC 71), Stephen Kerins, Aidan Moynihan, Jack Keegan
REFEREE: Dan Jones (WRU)
Half Time: 3-28
Try: Kerins 75
Conversion: Moynihan 75
Penalty: McKeon 16
Tries: Kolo’ofa’i 2, 19, 26, 72, Moates 36, Evans 78
Conversions: Penberthy 2, 19, 26, 36 Cooke 72