After nine successive Siam Cup wins for the men in red, it was Guernsey’s turn to get their hands back on the Siam Cup, sponsored this season by Santander International.
The Sarnians’ staying power enabled them to score two tries in the final 10 minutes to finally break clear of young Reds’ squad, which featured 15 Jersey-born players in the 22 and the same number who were making their Siam debuts, and take a deserved victory. The visitors had gone toe-to-toe with the home side, but eventually had to admit defeat and surrender one of rugby’s oldest trophies after almost a decade in possession.
The Siam triumph was part of a four-nil ‘greenwash’ for the host club, who had earlier claimed a comfortable 40-0 win over Jersey Reds Women in the Ladies Siam and narrow victories in the Nash Cup for Veterans (17-12) and the Fallaize Cup for 2nd teams (15-13, with a last-play try).
The game began amid a cacophony of noise and there were robust early exchanges as both sides tried to impose themselves. There was an early blow for the visitors as Jersey Reds Athletic captain Tom Ellis, one of the more experienced players in the line-up, went down with an injury that he tried but was unable to run off, being replaced by Harrison Berresford.
The Raiders opened the deadlock when Ned Brown sliced through for the opening try and Sam Whitehead converted.
The Reds pressed forward thanks to a powerful run by Uili Kolo’ofa’i – the Tongan international one of two professionals in the Reds XV – but on the next phase of play the ball was lost and worked to Brown who carved his way through the Jersey midfield. His pass to Luke Sayer appeared a long way forward to the visiting contingent, but play continued and Sayer sprinted to the line (12-0).
Needing to get points on the board, the Reds achieved their aim with a penalty from Simon Johnson and then a Kolo’ofa’i try from the back of a powerful scrum – one of the visiting side’s great strengths throughout the game.
After a series of drives by the Guernsey forwards, flanker Dan Hill claimed his side’s third try, but again the Reds hit back – this time after a bullish charge by skipper Nick Selway, with the ball taken on by Tim Corson and fed to his fellow flanker Alex Budd who had the strength to make the line. Johnson’s conversion again narrowed the gap to two points (17-15).
An error at the restart allowed Guernsey the chance to mount another attack which culminated in Brown crossing for his second try, but yet again there was a Jersey response, this time courtesy of scrum-half Liam Rhodes, who claimed an interception and raced to the line. A well-struck conversion from Johnson, once again ignoring noise from the crowd as he lined up to kick, and the teams left the field for a breather at 24-22.
As in the first period, first blood after the resumption went to the hosts, who produced a well-worked rolling maul that was finished by Hill for his second try, Whitehead adding his third conversion.
Once again the Reds powered forward, looking to gain points from a series of close-range scrums and lineout. Kolo’ofa’i charged again and worked the ball to Corson, who was adjudged to have been held up, but soon afterwards the ball was worked wide for Scott McClurg to cross.
As the game moved towards the hour mark, the tempo was still high and the Reds continued to compete magnificently, and the pack gained over 30 metres from one rolling maul. This took Jersey close to their opponents’ line – a try to take the lead for the first time seemed achievable, but after a couple of near misses and some tough tackling by the home side, fly-half Daniel Butler-Hawkes opted to take a neat drop goal that made it 31-30.
The home side’s lead was back up to four points when Whitehead slotted a penalty from in front of the posts after a high tackle. Moving into the final 10 minutes, Guernsey had the better of territory and possession and sensed the opportunity for a decisive score. It came when Luke Jones burst into the line at pace and although the centre was tackled, he was able to regain his feet and dive over next to the posts.
The hosts 11-point lead (41-30) was the widest it had been since early in the first half, and they were able to repel some final attacking thrusts by the Reds and then move back downfield. Whitehead saw a penalty effort come back off a post, but in the last play Anthony Armstrong went over for his side’s seventh try and sparked wild celebrations before, during and after the lifting of the Siam Cup.
Reds’ Head Coach Myles Landick congratulated Guernsey on their win, which followed promotion to National 2 South the previous weekend, and promised that his players would learn from the experience and be looking to regain the Siam on home soil in 12 months’ time.
Jersey Reds (1-15)
George Banks (Ewan Davies 75); Nick Selway (capt), Chris Pople, Euan Spencer (George Willmott 62), Tom Ellis (Harrison Berresford 8), Alex Budd (David Felton 72), Tim Corson, Uili Kolo’ofa’i; Liam Rhodes (Max Harrington 58), Daniel Butler-Hawkes; Simon Johnson; Nathan Rogers, Scott McClurg, Finlay Laing (James Dufty 54); Adam Spencer. Unused replacement: Dominic Henstridge
Referee: Veryan Boscawen. Assistants: Peter Crouch, Melanie Liley
Crowd: 2,000 (estimate)
Tries: Brown 14, 34, Sayer 18, Hill 29, 45, Jones 71, Armstrong 80
Conversions: Whitehead 14, 34, 45, 71
Penalty: Whitehead 66
Tries: Kolo’ofa’i 24, Budd 32, Rhodes 37, McClurg 54
Conversions: Johnson 32, 37
Penalty: Johnson 20
Drop goal: Butler-Hawkes 62