The Reds and Hartpury have it all to play for in the Championship Cup after the first leg of their quarter-final tie finished all-square at the Alpas Arena, setting up a decisive ‘second half’ at Stade Santander International this Friday.
The home side made the early running and looked to have scored through Robbie Smith, but the centre had failed to ground the ball properly and the try was disallowed. There was also a penalty miss from Hartpury’s James Williams, the leading scorer in this season’s Championship, and a yellow card to Scott Van Breda for a high tackle.
The visitors belied their 14-man predicament almost immediately, taking a high kick and then charging back through a powerful Tim Grey run that put their opponents on the back foot. From the next phase the ball was quickly worked wide by Brendan Cope and Jack Roberts for Brendan Owen to score in the corner.
Alex Forrester levelled the match with a try after taking a cross-kick from Williams, who also converted, but the Reds went ahead again just after the 20-minute mark It was a third-phase try stemming from a lineout, with Grey again making a significant carry through the middle. Fwllow back row man Lewis Wynne was the key link man in the scoring phase, working a one-two with scrum-half Alex Mitchell before Cope and Dan Barnes put Van Breda over.
Atoning for his earlier trip to the sin-bin, ‘SVB’ was over again soon afterwards, this time from second-phase lineout ball. Grey handled again near half-way, and when Mitchell fired the ball to Barnes the centre wrong-footed the Hartpury defence with a swift pass back inside to the onrushing Owen, who raced forward, drew the last man and slipped the ball to his fellow South African for a 25-metre canter to the line.
Two successful conversions by Cope meant it was 7-19, but the hosts had narrowed the gap by half-time thanks to a try by wing George Simpson.
Both sides had chances to score during the third quarter, but some spells of Red pressure were soaked up by the home side, while Sam Smith’s dart for the line was stymied by an Owen tackle.
In the end it was replacement prop Lewis Holsey who, just eight minutes after entering the fray, burrowed over following a pass from front row colleague Luke Stratford. There was still time for a winning score, but Hartpury’s defence stayed firm and replacement scrum-half Rhys Price got close before his grubber kick rolled into touch.
Friday’s crucial match at the Stade kicks off at 7.45pm, with the major incentive for the sides being a potential home semi-final, against Doncaster Knights or Coventry (the latter took a 13-point lead home to Butts Park Arena).
Pictures: Lauren Couchman, LNC Images
HARTPURY: Simpson; Forrester, Smith R, Foley, Smith S; Williams, Lennon; Fry, Crane (capt), Knight, Lemon, Britton, Dun, Hastings, Howard. Replacements: Stratford, Holsey, Walsh, Robinson, Ward, Short, Price, Matthews.
JERSEY REDS: Owen; Van Breda (YC 4), Roberts, Barnes, Brown, Cope, Mitchell (Elliott 53); Flynn (Godfrey 68), Clarke (Harris 53), Longwell (Nicol 61), Everard (Humfrey 59), O’Connor (Everard 51), Cook, Argyle, Wynne (capt) (White 66), Grey (Thompson 68). Unused: Pittman
REFEREE: Dan Jones. Assistants: Shane Lewis, Kevin Williams
Half Time: 12-19
Tries: Forrester 14, Simpson 35, Holsey 64
Conversions: Williams 14, 64
Tries: Owen 8, Van Breda 22, 30
Conversions: Cope 22, 30
Why not get yourself a Hot Pot (Curry or Chilli served with rice) in the supporters marquee £8 per pot.