Perfection may have eluded Jersey Reds in their second competitive outing of the new season, but some clinical moments in attack, plus committed defence throughout, helped secure a comfortable win.
The hard work was spread across the 23-man visiting squad, but it was the back three who racked up the tries: a brace for new signing Tom Williams, and one apiece for Leroy Van Dam and Auguy Slowik.
A maximum-point win was just what Harvey Biljon’s side wanted after losing their opening Championship Cup outing to Newcastle Falcons on home turf the previous weekend.
On a dry, bright and breezy day, there were a number of early handling errors by both sides during the early stages. Former Reds’ number 8 Seb Nagle-Taylor looked lively in attack and when he hacked on from a dropped ball by Greg Dyer, the Red defence had to scramble and concede a five-metre scrum.
Hartpury couldn’t take advantage of their opportunity, but soon afterwards won a penalty which fly-half Josh Bragman stroked over.
The visitors failed to secure the ball from two attacking lineouts in the first quarter, and Hartpury enjoyed plenty of possession. But the home side found a defensive line that was hungry for work and pressing hard in every phase to keep their opponents behind the gain-line.
The aggressive defence eventually paid dividends when a Hartpury attack broke down after multiple phases, with Luc Jones reacting rapidly to pounce on the loose ball. Dyer stepped in at scrum-half and the ball was brought forward at pace via Mark Best, Slowik and James Newey before Slowik gained possession a second time and fed Williams for the try.
Williams followed up with a thumping tackle in front of the main stand, and his team were able to turn up the pressure with a series of attacking phases, including both forwards – prop Harry Morley was especially prominent – and backs. Hartpury were battling to hold firm and when Slowik came in to act as scrum-half, he was able to dummy his way through and sprint 25 metres to the line.
A scoreline of 3-12 was a decent effort playing into the wind, but unfortunately the visiting side couldn’t quite maintain it until the break. Seven penalties were conceded in the first half – the tally dropped markedly in the second period – and when Bragman kicked to the corner, his forwards were able to execute via the catch-and-drive lineout, finished by Will Tanner.
The first score of the second half is always prized and the home side were lively, with a strong run by Nagle-Taylor, newly-signed from Rotherham, that was ended by Williams’ tackle.
The Reds were looking to control the game, harnessing the wind through the frequent use of Mark Best’s left boot and dominating the territorial battle. Van Dam almost grabbed an intercept, and then soon afterwards did made it over the line as Dyer and Slowik fed the ball to him on the left flank.
The home side were prepared to throw everything into their attacking game, and got close before having to settle for a five-metre scrum. The ball was fed wide, but all too predictably for Williams, who surged into the opposition line, plucked the intercept and never looked like being stopped as he sprinted 95 metres to the try-line.
The final quarter wasn’t the most exciting one ever played, but that suited the Reds just fine. With a 16-point margin and the wind behind, they stayed in control, although several kicks ended up going too far and giving possession back to Hartpury.
The home side never gave up, with replacement scrum-half Harry Cochrane, another former Jersey player, looking lively in attack, and Will Safe crossing in the corner for his side’s second try.
Disappointingly the Reds couldn’t gain the last word in spite of having two successive five-metre scrums as the clock reached 80 minutes, but this was nevertheless a satisfactory outing that maintained hopes of another cup run later in the season.
This Saturday the Reds travel to Doncaster for another cup outing before returning to action at Stade Santander International with a home league game against Coventry.
Pic courtesy LNC Images
Hartpury University (1-15)
Dan Murphy, Will Tanner, Rupert Harden, Joe Batley, James Scott, Akapusi Qera, Jack Preece, Seb Nagle-Taylor; Luke Carter (capt), Josh Bragman; Jake Henry, Luke Eves, Jamie Forrester, Sam Goatley; George Simpson
Tom Everard (for Scott 31-41 mins & for Batley 67 mins), Kai Owen (Murphy 48), Nick David (Simpson 53), Harry Cochrane (James-Carter 59), Alex Gibson (Harden 59), Will Safe (Qera 59), Joe Margetts (Forrester 67), Will Crane (Tanner 67)
Jersey Reds (1-15)
Harry Morley, Nic Dolly, Alec Clarey, Alex Thompason, Rory Bartle, Conor Joyce, Josh Bainbridge, Max Argyle (capt); Luc Jones, Greg Dyer; Leroy Van Dam, Mark Best, James Newey, Tom Williams; Auguy Slowik
Liam Howley (for Jones 8-18 mins & 66 mins), Roy Godfrey (Morley 45), TJ Harris (Dolly 45), Kyle Hatherell (Thompson 48) Brendan Cope (Dyer 59), Zei Alexis (Clarey 63), Jake Upfield (Bainbridge 72) Jack Stapley (Best 75)
REFEREE: Anthony Woodthorpe. Assistants: Darryl Chapman, Peter Brunt
Half Time: 8-12
Tries: Tanner 39, Safe 77
Penalty: Bragman 14
Tries: Williams 22, 58, Slowik 28, Van Dam 48
Conversions: Dyer 28, 48