An agonising defeat for the Reds was their third Championship loss in succession at Vallis Way against old rivals Ealing Trailfinders.
The visitors fought back from a desperately disappointing first half to take the lead early in the second period, but then allowed the home side to retake the lead and couldn’t quite conjure a last-gasp recovery.
The only scores of the first period were penalties at each end of the half by Trailfinders’ player-coach Ben Ward. In between, the Reds had some lengthy periods of dominance, and an extra man advantage after prop Lewis Thiede was sin-binned for pulling down a maul.
The yellow card came during a period of sustained Jersey pressure, featuring a series of attacking lineouts and scrums close to the Ealing line. At one point Dave Mckern came within inches of scoring, and a penalty try also looked a possibility as the Reds front row gained the upper hand at scrum-time. But eventually the home side were able to lift the siege, and towards the end of the half a high kick from scrum-half Luke Carter caused trouble for Jersey’s defence and led to Ward’s second penalty shot.
It was a forgettable first half, with little running rugby, a lot of kicking into a swirling wind and numerous reset scrums and penalties.
The visitors began the second half with purpose and a determination to bring their back-line into the game. Twice this paid dividends, with the distribution of Sami Fisilau sparking attacks to the right. On the first occasion Ross Adair burst through in the centre of the field and scored by the posts, with Brendan Cope’s conversion giving the Reds a one-point lead. A few minutes later more pairs of hands were involved as the ball went all the way to the right wing, where Jack Cuthbert raced over to touch down.
Six points ahead, the Reds would have hoped to nail down a win, their first at Vallis Way since January 2012 in National One. But the home side fought back, with ex-Jersey player Aaron Penberthy coming on at fly-half and playing a significant role. First his well-timed pass sent Joe Munro over by the posts, and an easy conversion meant Trailfinders were back in front (13-12).
Although Cope accepted a penalty chance to put the Reds back into the lead, Jersey were otherwise unable to turn pressure into points through the latter stages, and this left the home side within range of a potentially winning score. This duly arrived courtesy of a fine 45-metre run from James Cordy-Redden, would weaved his way across the field and then up the wing to touch down. There were just two minutes to play, and the hosts led by five points after Penberthy slotted a fine conversion from the right touchline.
There was still time for Jersey and a series of attacking phases appeared to leave Ealing running out of numbers in defence. The ball was worked right and Adair would surely have scored in the corner to tie the scores, but he couldn’t hold the final pass, and the final whistle blew.
The Reds had to make do with a losing bonus point, slipping to third in the Championship table prior to the Sunday match between Nottingham and the Pirates. Harvey Biljon’s side will hope to return to winning ways in this week’s ‘Friday Night Lights’ clash with Nottingham at St Peter. The match kicks off at 7.45pm and there’s a special offer on pre-game meals in the marquee – just £10. Details are HERE
Will Harries; Rhys Crane, James Cordy-Redden, Joe Munro, Curtis Wilson; Ben Ward, Luke Carter; Ignacio Lancuba, Rhys Lawrence, Lewis Thiede (YC 12), Carwyn Jones, Harry Casson, Willie Ryan, Arthur Ellis, Mark Bright (capt)
Replacements: Matt Cornish, James Gibbons, Alex Penny, Llewelyn Jones, Mike Macfarlane, Alex Walker, Aaron Penberthy
Jack Cuthbert; George Watkins, Regan King (capt), Jordan Davies, Ross Adair; Brendan Cope, Sami Fisilau (Kieran Hardy 51); Marc Thomas (Jake Woolmore 63), Nick Selway (Jack Macfarlane 69), Simon Kerrod (Jake Armstrong 63), Nick Campbell, Dave McKern (Uili Kolo’ofa’i 63), Max Argyle, James Doyle (James Voss 78), Nick Haining. Unused replacement: Lewis Robling
Referee: Dean Richards; Assistants: Claire Daniels, Lionel Spooner
Tries: Munro 67, Cordy-Redden 78
Conversions: Penberthy 67, 78
Penalties: Ward 8, 36
Tries: Adair 44, Cuthbert 51
Conversion: Cope 44
Penalty: Cope 71