The Reds overcame a mid-match wobble to eventually finish well clear of Doncaster Knights and cash in their game-in-hand on league leaders Ealing Trailfinders.
The gap between first and second in the table shrank to just a single point thanks to a maximum five-point haul for the flight back to Jersey, setting up an exciting final three rounds of the Championship season.
On a bright and sunny Easter Saturday afternoon, the match could hardly have started any worse from a visiting standpoint. The Knights won a lineout, Sam Olver chipped over and former Reds’ loanee Connor Edwards fed Robbie Smith for a charge to the line with only 45 seconds on the clock.
Tomi Lewis squared up the try-ledger when centres Dan Barnes and Alex McHenry fed him for a run to the line, Russell Bennett adding the extras at the start of what would be a fine day’s kicking.
Lewis was involved again soon afterwards, with Sean O’Connor also carrying well on the left flank and then some follow up grunt from the forwards, James Hadfield powering over.
Bennett’s deft chip gave the Reds a third score as Lewis followed up to score, and the bonus point try came after 25 minutes as Sam Grahamslaw finished a maul.
The Knights had been rocked by the four-try blitz, registering just a lone Alex Dolly penalty during this period to trail 10-28, but finished the half strongly. The Reds were on the back foot, conceding several penalties and eventually a penalty try, which also saw O’Connor sin-binned.
Further pressure against the 14-man opponents almost brought another try to the Yorkshiremen before the break, but the Reds stood firm and won a vital penalty that enabled them to clear and reach the interval without further damage.
An early chance fell the Reds’ way after the resumption, but when a lineout inside the Donny 22 was lost, the hosts were able to clear. O’Connor returned, but the Knights pushed forward and Dolly darted through before feeding Joe Margetts for a try, Dolly’s conversion making it a four-point game at 24-28.
The Knights could have taken another pot at goal but instead went to the corner, gaining a scrum from the lineout after the Reds knocked on, but the Reds forwards then earned a penalty and Bennett cleared.
Seeking to get control of the game after some extensive bouts of kick tennis, the Reds pressed forward and after a big maul and several close calls involving the forwards, the ball was worked by James Mitchell to Bennett, who found enough of a gap to squeeze through.
The fifth try seemed to take some of the fight out of the home side, who rarely threatened during the final quarter, while the Reds were attacking at will. Brendan Owen could have put Ben Woollett in for a try but the final pass went to ground, but then Owen crossed himself and in the closing stages Eoghan Clarke finished two mauls. There was also a debut for scrum-half Luke Davies, who replaced James Mitchell.
Bennett’s final conversion bounced back off the post, one of just two misses from his eight attempts.
The Reds will now prepare for their final away game of the league season, away to Bedford Blues next Saturday, before finishing their Championship schedule with back-to-back home games against Ealing and Ampthill.
DONCASTER KNIGHTS (1-15): Conor Davidson (Kai Owen 52), George Roberts (Will Holling 65), Andrew Foster (Jake Armstrong 51), Ehize Ehizode, Evan Mintern, Martin Sigren (Sam Daly 59), Robbie Smith, John Kelly (Thom Smith 69); Alex Dolly (Will Yarnell 71), Sam Olver (c); Maliq Holden, Connor Edwards (Alex Lloyd-Seed 71), Joe Margetts, George Simpson; Billy McBryde (Jack Metcalf h-t).
JERSEY REDS (1-15): Sam Grahamslaw (Greg McGrath 69), James Hadfield (Eoghan Clarke 49), Steve Longwell (Adam Nicol 51), James Scott (Tom Everard 49), Sean O’Connor (YC 33), James Dun (Max Argyle 69), Lewis Wynne (c), Alun Lawrence; James Mitchell (Luke Davies 75), Russell Bennett; Tomi Lewis (Will Brown 75), Dan Barnes (Jordan Holgate 51), Alex McHenry, Ben Woollett; Brendan Owen.
Referee: Harry Walbaum. Assistants: John Meredith, Simon Park
Tries: R Smith 1, Penalty try 33, Margetts 46
Conversions: Dolly 1, 46
Penalty: Dolly 16
Tries: Lewis 8, 17, Hadfield 12, Grahamslaw 25, Bennett 61, Owen 70, Clarke 75, 78
Conversions: Bennett 8, 17, 12, 25, 61, 75
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