Jersey 7 Leicester Tigers
By: James Hewlett
The second Ashburton challenge gave the new look, fully
professional Jersey side a chance to face off against one of the
best sides in European rugby. The 3,212 strong crowd were keen to
see how the dozen or so new signings led by new captain Alex Rae
fared against a Leicester side coming off the back of a record
tenth English title and their third in five years. The twice
Heineken cup winners, contained four of their six British and Irish
Lions representatives, Dan Cole, Geoff Parling and Tom Youngs all
started, with Tom Croft on the bench.
Jersey started well and was determined not to be pushed about by
their illustrious opponents. As early as the eighth minute Parling
thought he had bulldozed over, only to be denied by a collective of
Jersey bodies, notably Fred Silcock. Leicester Tigers were sharp
early on however, and an incisive move by former All Black Scott
Hamilton led to Parling this time scoring the opening try in the
corner, Flood missing the conversion. Jersey responded well and
went toe to toe with the Tigers but on the quarter hour, a line
break caused an overlap and the impressive Vereniki Goneva scored
the first of his two tries. A horrible scuff by Flood meant he was
now nought from two kicks.
With Prop Jon Brennan taken off with injury the Jersey pack
looked unsettled, but once Elvis Taione flattened Cole on 24
minutes, the crowd came alive, and moments later came the move of
the half from Jersey. Nicky Griffiths continued recycling of the
play, finally releasing O’Connor who in turn fed Drew Locke left to
right, and the debutant scored to the delight of the home faithful.
O’Conno○r converted to bring the score to 7-10.
On the half hour a messy scrum put Leicester on the attack. With
Parling becoming increasingly influential, breaking tackles and
leading the line, and despite last ditch Jersey heroics,
Leicester’s man of the match Steve Mafi scored from under a pile of
bodies. This time Flood converted, 7-17.
With both teams having issues with the new scrum rules, Jersey
were unable to create a platform and the Premiership Champions’
ability to switch the play tested the resolve, until the stroke of
half time when from a rolling maul Julian Salvi crashed over. Flood
again missed to leave the score 7-22 at half time. Jersey can count
themselves slightly unfortunate however not to have scored a second
try, as following on from a hacked clearance Ed Dawson would have
been clear and under the posts but for a bad bounce just as he was
about to strike the ball.
Plenty of changes from both sides for the second half, most
notably the introduction of back row Tom Croft. Jersey began the
second half as they began the first, but as the game wore on the
class of Leicester began to tell, with sharp hands amongst the
forwards leaving a gap for scrum half David Mélé to scamper over in
the corner, with Flood’s last involvement again missing the
On 55 minutes, hesitancy in the Jersey midfield and some slick
passing gave Goneva the easiest of run-ins to extend the lead. Owen
Williams looking more assured than Flood, slotted the kick to give
the Tigers a 34-7 lead.
Jersey stepped up the pace and was beginning to cause Leicester
problems, but a missed penalty kick to touch was hacked into acres
of space, and Adam Thompstone had the simplest job to chase, pick
up and dot down a score that momentarily knocked both crowd and the
Jersey players. Worse was to follow when another premiership
standard move was followed by a decidedly forward pass, missed by
the officials, and Jamie Gibson scored. Another Williams conversion
gave a score of 7-48.
Ryan Lamb then scored two quick-fire tries as Jersey tired
against the third Tigers front row of the match, both converted as
Leicester began to turn the screw. Henry Purdy scored the seventh
try of the half late on, and Williams with his sixth successful
kick somewhat skewed the score line to a final score of Jersey 7-69
Jersey was more than a match for Leicester in the first half in
particular, the tight five can be justifiably proud of their
efforts, and the handling was a class apart from last season.
Leicester’s extra match practice, fitness and sharpness was a
key factor and gave a side packed with internationals the edge, and
created the overlaps that eventually a dogged Jersey side were
unable to withstand. Good performances by a number of debutants
including Niall O’Conner, the man of the match for Jersey, will
give great optimism for the season ahead and the players can be
proud of their efforts against such illustrious opposition.
Locke, Bishop, Dawson, O’Connor, Griffths, McCarthy, Taione,
Brennan, Campbell, Rae ©, Silcock, Buckle,
Brown.Replacements:Fidler, Felton, Young, Markham, Anderson, Voss,
Stratford, Williams, Penberthy, Cooper, Burroughs, Copsey.
Hamilton, Goneva, Bowden, Thompstone, Flood ©, Mele, Mulipola,
Youngs T, Cole, Deacon, Parling, Mafi, Salvi,
Crane.Replacements:Humphreys, Purdy, Catchpole, Dunn, Allen,
Williams, Lamb, Steele, Tressider, Stankovich, Hawkins, Briggs,
Balmain, de Chavas, Price, Croft, Noone, Gibson, Waldrom.
Assistant referees:Andrew Pearce and Roy Maybank
Star Man (Jersey):O’Connor
Star Man (Tigers):Mafi
Tries:Parling 5, Goneva 14, 55, Mafi 31, Salvi 39, Mele 50,
Thompstone 59, Gibson 62, Lamb 71,77, Purdy 79
Conversions:Flood 31, Williams 55, 59, 62, 71, 77, 79