The Reds came up just short in the bid to crown a magnificent season with a league and cup double.
After the elation and exhaustion of claiming the RFU Championship title a fortnight earlier, the Reds faced old adversaries Ealing Trailfinders for a fifth and final time this season, seeking to prize the trophy from the Londoners’ hands after they won it at the last two opportunities.
Having only lost two cup ties in their previous 36 – both pool stage reverses to the Reds – Ealing were keen to make a fast start on their synthetic home surface and rounded off some early pressure with a try after 10 minutes. The visitors’ defence had been pressed back and then scrum-half Craig Hampson flung a long pass to the right wing for Jonah Holmes to finish.
Both sides suffered some early adversity, with Jersey hooker Eoghan Clarke aggravating a shoulder problem and being replaced by TJ Harris, while Ealing fly-half Dan Lancaster also departed injured, with Steven Shingler taking his place.
The Reds fought their way back into the game and were finally able to gain a platform in their opponents’ half. Max Argyle and James Dun linked well in securing lineout ball, and James Elliott fed a charging Jordan Holgate for a pacy and powerful burst to the try-line.
After a missed conversion the deficit was just two points, and remained so until half-time. This was in spite of the Reds being under the cosh for most of the time, with some crucial interventions near their own goal-line, notably two ruck turnovers from Holgate and another instance when Holmes crossed again but was ruled ‘held up’.
If not on the scoreboard, there was a price to pay in personnel terms when, after several penalties against the visiting team, Alun Lawrence was sin-binned.
Another fast start saw Trailfinders go close in the opening minutes of the second half before Lawrence returned, and then claim their second try in the 45th minute. Again it was a Hampson-Holmes link up in the right-hand corner, this time with a shorter scoring pass, and once again Luke Daniels converted from out wide.
Within minutes the hosts were pegged back, again from a lineout. The Reds’ pack looked like they’d be setting up a maul, but in fact the ball was worked to Ben Woollett running at pace behind his forwards. The wing almost went all the way, but when he was brought down Harris was there to gather and crash over.
Further Ealing pressure ensued, including a charge-down from Bobby De Wee that may have brought a try but for a knock-on, but the two-point margin was still showing on the board as the game entered the final quarter.
The home side then struck twice in quick succession, first through Jack Digby from close range and then as a result of a superb run by Max Bodilly that took him through and under the posts.
Suddenly 16 points in arrears, the Reds responded through Woolett’s try on the left, only to conceded a fifth try with seven minutes remaining as replacement prop George Davis barged over.
A fifth successive conversion by Daniels restored the 16-point margin and seemed to signal the end for Jersey’s cup ambitions, but there was still a final flourish. Replacement wing Ryan Hutler, among four players playing his final match before leaving (Harris, Dun and Tomi Lewis the others), was involved both times, firstly setting up Holgate for his second try and then linking with Woollett who raced over in what was to be the final play of the match.
After the match, Jersey DoR Harvey Biljon said: “This doesn’t take anything away from an extraordinarily successful season.
“We came here to try and enjoy the occasion through some adversity and put the best effort in that we could, and that’s exactly what we did.
“We’ve got a number of players leaving us, as we do every season, and it was important to give them a good send-off, particularly with the success we’ve all worked hard together to produce this season.”
Ealing’s Ben Ward said: “I’m absolutely delighted for the boys to get that result – after the disappointment of three weeks ago, I feel we needed this trophy more than Jersey did and I’m so proud of all the players and staff.
“A word needs to go to Jersey for how well they’ve done this year. They’ve pushed us to be better and I’m looking forward to our battles next season.”
Ealing Trailfinders: Cian Kelleher; Luke Daniels, Max Bodilly, Reuben Bird-Tulloch, Jonah Holmes; Dan Lancaster (Steven Shingler 25), Craig Hampson (Jordan Burns 79); James Gibbons (Will Davis 49), Alun Walker (Cameron Terry 62), Lewis Thiede (George Davis 52), Bobby de Wee (Andrew Davidson 61), David O’Connor, Adam Korczyk (Barney Maddison 74), Ollie Newman (Jack Digby 56), Simon Uzokwe.
Jersey Reds: Brendan Owen; Ben Woollett, Charlie Powell (Dan Barnes 48), Jordan Holgate, Tomi Lewis (Ryan Hutler 65); Russell Bennett, James Elliott (James Mitchell 60); Sam Grahamslaw (Greg McGrath 63), Eoghan Clarke (TJ Harris 10-63, James Hadfield 63), Stevie Longwell (Adam Nicol 60), James Dun, James Scott, Max Argyle, Lewis Wynne, Alun Lawrence (YC 31, Hallam Chapman 65).
Referee: Hamish Smales. Assistants: Simon Park, Hamish Grant
Half Time: 7-5
Tries: Holmes 10, 44, Digby 62, Bodilly 64, G Davis 72
Conversions: Daniels 10, 44, 62, 64, 72
Tries: Holgate 22, 78, Harris 48, Woollett 67, 80
Conversions: Bennett 49, 68, 81
18 May 2023
DoR pays tribute to leaving players after title-winning season