Jersey held on for a stunning Siam Cup win in front of a passionate Sarnian crowd at Footes Lane.
The Reds eventually took the historic trophy, a century after it was first presented, by just a single point, their 13-14 victory over Guernsey the closest Siam result since the rival Islands drew 3-3 in 1978.
The hosts scored first thanks to a try by Ethan Smith, converted by Owen Thomas, but the visitors fought back and scored 14 points in a five-minute burst. First the ball was worked right and Michael Harman gave a scoring pass to Euan Spencer, with Bader Pretorius adding a well-struck conversion.
Pretorius, one of four Jersey Reds professionals appearing in a Reds squad alongside amateur Athletic players, created his side’s second try when he managed to strip the ball in a tackle and race upfield. Although he was brought down just short, the fly-half found Tim Corson in support and the captain crossed under the posts, setting up an easy conversion.
Thomas narrowed the gap with a penalty to make it 10-14 at the break.
The second half was a torrid, hear-in-mouth affair featuring frenetic levels of commitment and heroic defence by both sides. After unsuccessfully attempting to score points from attacking lineouts when awarded penalties during the first half, the Raiders changed tactics and Thomas went for goal three times. His first effort struck the post, the second drifted wide, but the third was successful to trim the Jersey lead to just a point with 15 minutes to play.
There were chances for both sides during an agonising finale, but in the end they had fought each other to a standstill and it was the Reds who celebrated as the final whistle blew.
Jersey full-back Charlie Hubert was named man-of-the-match by the match officials, becoming the inaugural winner of the Mike Engleman Trophy, awarded in honour of the former JRFC President, who had the rare distinction of playing in the Siam Cup for both sides in the 1960s and 70s.
There was consolation for the hosts in the shape of a brace of victories earlier in the day, with Guernsey winning the Ladies Siam 46-7 – their ninth straight Siam win against their old rivals – and Guernsey Vets defeating Jersey Wanderers 55-19.
The Raiders and the Reds are set to play two further sets of Siam fixtures at the end of the 2021/22 season, with dates for the contests set to be confirmed imminently.
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