The Reds surged into the Championship Cup final with a strong display against the Cornish Pirates, setting up the chance of a league and cup double.
In spite of some injury troubles the visitors were dominant for large parts of a game marred by a serious second half injury to Tom Everard.
The match kicked off under grey skies in front of a sizeable Mennaye crowd.
Although the Pirates had possession for the first minute, this was broken by a charge down and Will Brown was first to the loose ball, just inside the Pirates’ half. He hacked forward with precision, the ball going just beyond the try-line and Brown winning the race to score by the posts. Russell Bennett added easy ‘extras’.
The Pirates were soon on the attack and after two penalties against the Reds in quick succession a maul rumbled over near the corner with Will Crane the scorer.
Another Jersey try looked possible when Bennett fed Owen and the full-back raced towards the line only to be brought down by a magnificent tackle from Arthur Relton.
Although the visitors lost Hamish Bain to injury, with Tom Everard coming on, they soon worked a second try, scored by Eoghan Clarke from a maul and Bennett converted well.
Pressing to turn their dominance into a bigger lead, the Reds had several more opportunities, including two mauls, but could not achieve anything and when pressing into the 22 in the closing stages Scott Van Breda was penalised for a high challenge and banished to the sin-bin.
The Pirates struck immediately, kicking the penalty to halfway and then scoring from the lineout. Rory Parata steamed through the SVB-shaped hole in midfield, racing forward to draw Owen and then slipping a pass for Relton to score under the posts, with Arwel Robson’s conversion the final kick of the half.
The second period began with the visitors on the attack, pressing forward and then using penalty advantage to put James Scott across the line before to his horror the lock ran towards the posts and grounded the ball just over the dead-ball line.
Fortunately for the Reds they claimed a score very soon afterwards as a scrum buckled and referee ran to the posts to signal a penalty try before showing a yellow card to Pirates’ prop Marlen Walker.
A long stoppage followed almost immediately as Everard was injured while making a tackle near halfway, and after lengthy treatment the second row was stretchered off after a stoppage of around quarter of an hour.
Even though Van Breda returned, the hosts were back within two after a period of pressure with Parata scoring by the posts and Robson converted.
The Reds then scored a fourth try, and an excellent one from top try-scorer Brown as he took a long flat pass on the left and showed great power and pace to race over in the corner, Bennett adding a superb conversion.
The Pirates were striving for another try, but the Red defence held firm and then pounced as a loose pass was picked off by Ben Woollett near his 10-metre line. The Australian had no momentum but sprinted up to speed and seconds later was under the posts and the conversion put them 16 clear.
The game lost a little intensity in the dying moments, although Tomi Lewis almost scored after coming on as a replacement only for the officials to call play back for a knock-on; there was just time for Alex Schwarz to be out through for a score after a pass from his skipper John Stevens.
While the late try shouldn’t detract from a deserved, gritty win for the Reds, the points could be important with home advantage going to the semi-final winner with the bigger winning margin. Ealing Trailfinders host Doncaster Knights at Vallis Way at 3pm on Saturday.
CORNISH PIRATES: Carwyn Penny; Will Trewin, Rory Parata, Garyn Smith, Arthur Relton; Arwel Robson, Tom Kessell; Jack Andrew, Will Crane, Matt Johnson, Steele Barker, Will Britton, John Stevens (capt), Will Gibson, Ben Grubb.
Replacements (all used): Morgan Nelson, Marlen Walker (YC 45), Hayden King, James Fender, Max Norey, Alex Schwarz, Joe Elderkin, Ruaridh Dawson.
JERSEY REDS: Brendan Owen; Ben Woollett, Scott Van Breda (YC 38), Jordan Holgate, Will Brown; Russell Bennett, James Mitchell; Sam Grahamslaw, Eoghan Clarke, Adam Nicol, Hamish Bain, James Scott, James Dun, Lewis Wynne (capt), Alun Lawrence.
Replacements (all used): James Hadfield, Greg McGrath, Stevie Longwell, Tom Everard, Max Argyle; James Elliott, Ben Burnell, Tomi Lewis.
Referee: Dan Jones. Assistants: Veryan Boscawen, Simon Adams
Half Time: 12-14
Tries: Crane 10, Relton 40, Parata 53, Schwarz 77
Conversions: Robson 40, 53
Tries: Brown 2, 56, Clarke 25, Penalty try 45, Woollett 67
Conversions: Bennett 2, 25, 56, 67
18 May 2023
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