Jersey Reds' second and final pre-season fixture ended in defeat in the ‘local derby’ against a Cornish Pirates side playing their first fixture since before lockdown. Despite a strong opening and solid finish by the visitors, Pirates' four tries were enough to see off a spirited Island side, who, try as they might, could not break down the hosts' stubborn defence.
On a beautiful sunny day in Cornwall, Jersey fresh from a try-fest against Coventry two weeks previously, naming an unchanged side, ripped into a rusty Pirates side. The opening exchanges saw plenty of kicking from both sides, with the Reds getting the early edge. Despite this it was Pirates who had the first chance, but scrum-half James Elliott forced the knock-on, right on the line.
The set piece looked to be going Jersey's way also, Pirates penalised in three of the first four scrums as the Red pack looked to claim dominance, and after a bit of ping-pong kicking, Jersey were awarded a shot at goal. Brendan Cope duly obliged to give his side the lead.
With early forward dominance Jersey had space, and Cope had a cross-field go inches over Ryan Hutler, who would have had a clear run in had he been able to gather it in. Soon after, a powerful run by Zak Farrance, ploughing through the middle, put Jersey on the front foot. After several further infringements, Cope was given the chance to extend the lead, which he did from 35m.
A tactical change in the Pirates' set-up changed the focus of the play, and possession swung towards the home side. A line break from the midfield was stopped and another held up just short, but pressure told and from a yard out JB Bruzulier dived over for the games first try. Luke Scully – who had an excellent game, kicked the extras to give the Pirates a lead they did not relinquish.
The Reds still had chances in the first half, but the home sides defensive line-speed was excellent and put Jersey under all sorts of pressure, with the last pass/offload just not able to stick. At the other end, Pirates were clinical, and only a last-ditch intercept by Dan Barnes with several Pirates clear, saved what would have been a certain try. It was just a stay of execution however, as the home side rumbled over again, but referee Foley agreed that there was a double movement and disallowed the try.
The very next visit to the Jersey 22 resulted in the second try of the match, Pirates going through the phases before Tom Duncan forced himself over from close range in the corner. Scully kicked a quite excellent conversion and meant that despite their early ascendancy, Jersey trailed 14-6 at half time.
The second half started with both sides knowing the next score was key. Pirates using the wind better than the visitors, forcing an error in the middle of the park, and following a high tackle, a quick tap and go by man of the match Scully – on loan from Cardiff Blues - gave the Pirates their third try in the corner. His conversion from on the touchline was just wide but the Reds now had a mountain to climb.
Jersey, marshalled by Cope, responded well, but despite superiority in the set piece, the Pirate defence was outstanding, as they refused the visitors even a sniff. Much of the second half was an arm wrestle, with a raft of replacements disrupting the flow of the game, not helped by a worrying-looking injury for try scorer against Coventry, Ryan Hutler.
On the hour, the game looked to be over as a contest, as Pirates scored their fourth and final try. Channon finishing off a forwards rumble that looked to be held up short, but a second movement was deemed ok by the ref, and the try awarded under the posts. Bruzulier converted and the score was now 26-6.
Jersey rallied, in trying to move the ball they were initially turned over, and once again a Pirates overlap was spurned by an intercept by replacement George Spencer, who was able to pin his ears back and race the 70 or so metres to the line. Fly-half Bader Pretorius, another among a raft of replacements, converted, and with 13 minutes remaining the gap was 13 points.
Jersey were now playing the ball with a bit of confidence, a line break by Pretorius – beating four players - very nearly released the dangerous Lesley Klim on the wing. As they began to tire, both sides displayed commendable effort as they battered away. Both sides had chances late on, with Jersey finishing the stronger, with Brendan Owen full of confidence and nearly getting away, but the Pirate defending, as it was all game, was fast, hard and very difficult to break down.
Jersey Reds DOR Harvey Biljon was content with a more than useful work out for both teams, with plenty of key areas to work on, and will have learnt a lot more about the newer members of his squad. Pirates will take confidence, and a bit of fitness into next weekend, with the unenviable task of hosting Saracens at the Mennaye, whilst Jersey who started and finished the game looking like the better side, have a weekend off. More time to knit the host of new players together, before visiting the former Premiership and European champions a week later.
The Reds' fixture schedule, including kick-off times, is set to be confirmed on Monday, including details of how to watch all the games online.
Report: James Hewlett
Picture: Brian Tempest
Cornish Pirates (15-9, 1-8)
Maliq Holden, Robin Wedlake, Callum Patterson, Nico De Battista, Alex O’Meara, Luke Scully, JB Bruzulier, Marlen Walker, Dan Frost, Jay Tyack, Faatiga Lemalu, Danny Cutmore, Josh Caulfield, Josh Stevens, Tom Duncan
Replacements: Andrew, King, Rodman, Schickerling, Channon, Teague, Bolwell, Wright, Kiri-Kiri, Ryan, Davies, Schwarz, Bazalgette, Tucker, Parata, Wyatt, Davey.
Jersey Reds (15-9, 1-8)
Tom Williams; Ryan Hutler, Brendan Owen, Dan Barnes, Lesley Klim; Brendan Cope, James Elliott; Dan Richardson, TJ Harris, Ciaran Parker, Zak Farrance, Sean O’Connor (c), Max Argyle, Kyle Hatherell, Tim Grey.
Replacements: Jack Macfarlane, Ollie Dawe, Zei Alexis, Rory Bartle, Josh Bainbridge, Cam Nordli Kelemeti, Bader Pretorius, Apakuki Ma’afu, George Spencer, Jack Roberts
Tries: Bruzulier (24) Duncan (36) Scully (46) Shannon (62)
Conversions: Scully (24, 36) Bazalgette (62)
Tries: Spencer (67)
Conversion: Pretorius (67)
Penalties: Cope (13, 19)
Referee: Tom Foley. Assistants: Kevin Williams, James Milliner