Jersey 37 Ulster Ravens 19
British & Irish Cup, pool 6
by Tom Innes (pics by David Goodenough)
Jersey surged back from a nine-point deficit early in the match to register an emphatic win in their first match since the arrival of new Head Coach Harvey Biljon.
Biljon (pictured below with Forwards Coach Steve Boden), taking a back-seat role for the final two rounds of the British Cup before taking full control, was delighted to see a positive response from the Jersey squad.
“The most encouraging part for me was how they responded to the challenge they were set at half-time,” he said. “We shouldn’t get carried away, but it was the sort of performance that we wanted.”
Jersey’s defence was found wanting twice in 15 minutes as Josh Atkinson and David McIlwaine scored tries for the Ravens. But hooker Elvis Taione took a pass from fellow Tongan Latu Makaafi (below) and surged over the line to keep his side in contention, and when the visitors threatened to score just before half-time they were kept at bay.
Jersey showed a willingness to run at their opponents, especially in the second half, and this brought tries for Drew Locke and Grant Pointer (below), both coming after thrilling waves of attack with Jack Burroughs playing a prominent role, and good impact from the replacements’ bench. The Ravens countered through McKinney’s converted try, but Jersey pulled away approaching the hour mark.
Former Ulster player Niall O’Connor (below) put his side out of sight with two well-struck penalties, taking his points tally to 17, and after Mike McComish was sin-binned for illegally preventing Jersey from recycling the ball, the home forwards piled on the pressure and won a penalty try – and a bonus point – in the final minute of the game.
“It was very disappointing to finish the game like that, and the team have accepted the performance was ultimately not good enough,” said Ravens Manager Allan Clarke. “These games matter to us because of the playing opportunities they provide and we need to perform much better in our final match [against Cornish Pirates at Deramore on Friday].”
In contrast to the Ulster management, Jersey’s Forwards Coach Steve Boden was a happy man after his penultimate game in charge of the team before Biljon takes control fully on Monday January 20th.
“It was a really good performance, not perfect but it was great to get the win and I want the boys to remember this feeling – they haven’t had it much recently,” Boden said. “Our backs were outstanding and the set-piece was very solid with the exception of one iffy scrum.”
Boden agreed a key phase of the game had been the closing minute of the first half when the Ravens, 11-12 ahead, pressed for another score but were denied.
“It was really important to keep them out at that point,” he said. “That wasn’t about coaching, it was about the desire to be playing for Jersey and giving your best.”
Jersey: Burroughs, Pointer, Locke, Bishop (Copsey 51), Foster, O’Connor (Dudley 73), Williams (Griffiths 51); McCarthy, Taione (Felton 65), Young (Selway 64), Markham, Rae (capt) (Anderson 70), Makaafi (Voss 59), Buckle, Silcock.
Ulster Ravens: McIlwaine, Cochrane (Busby 62), Andrew, McCloskey, Nelson, McKinney, Heaney (Shanahan 65); McCall (Warwick 36-41 & 47), Annett (Jackson 65), Lutton (Macklin 70), Stevenson (capt), McComb, Joyce (Dow 70), Atkinson (Campbell 56), McComish.
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys (RFU)
Man of the Match, as chosen by match sponsor Comprop: Niall O’Connor (Jersey)
Tries: Taione 26, Locke 42, Pointer 58, Penalty 80
Conversion: O’Connor 58
Penalties: O’Connor 12, 24, 55, 68, 70
Tries: Atkinson 7, McIlwaine 14, McKinney 52
Conversions: McKinney 7, 52