Jersey Reds wrapped up their pre-season preparations with a good performance as Sale Sharks’ first pre-season match, and their first trip to the Channel Islands, ended in a solid three-try win for the Premiership side.
The visitors did not have it all their own way however, as the home side were dominant in the first half and but for some desperate last-ditch defending could, and probably should have gone in at the break a couple of tries to the good.
The home team looked every bit the equal of their more star-studded opponents in the opening moments of the game. Big hitting and last-ditch desperate tackling by the Sharks were the only real difference as the Reds tried time and again to break down the away side.
Sale have lofty ambitions this season, looking to improve on last season's efforts which had seen them finish in third place in the Gallagher Premiership. Jersey had plenty of opportunity to open the scoring with kickable penalty chances, but showing great ambition they proceeded to kick to the corner, working the visitors over with lineout and maul.
Sale held firm and only when the clock ticked to half an hour did Jersey try a shot at the posts, but it was missed by Brendan Cope.
Ryan Olowofela had a hat-trick of half-chances when on another day he may have broken through, but try as they might the scores did not come for the home side.
The second Olowofela chance came after a period where the Reds moved the ball right to left with real purpose and the quality of the passing and handling was excellent. Brendan Cope's cross-field kick was millimetres out of the grasp of Olowofela, who would have surely outpaced the stranded defence had he been able to gather it in.
Even in defence, the Reds looked to move the ball at every opportunity, Cope and Scott Van Breda showing great ambition, taking on four chasing Sharks on their own try line, after a deft kick over the top put them under extreme pressure. The two players combined well with slick one-two passing, eventually winning a lineout, much to the pleasure of the home faithful.
A scoreless first half usually tells a different story, but this Jersey team is full of attacking intent, and against lesser opposition they may well have had two or three tries in what was a dominant opening 40 minutes, and the scoreline did nothing to reflect on the quality that was on show.
A raft of expected changes by the visitors at the break totally changed the dynamic of the game however, and it was Sale who bossed the second period, utilising the slope and slight breeze by scoring three tries in 11 minutes. A missed two-up tackle in the midfield allowed Sam Hill in a little too easily for the first, and then after some huge pressure from the Sharks' pack, Curtis Langdon went over from a maul for number two.
Jersey, to their credit, did not back down and continued to move the ball well, looking to stretch their opponents, but the Sale defence was, as in the first half seemingly impregnable. Sale though are a class act and after multiple phases of play inside the Jersey half, there was no-one left out wide and Tom Roebuck had the easiest of jobs to catch and dot down to effectively seal the win.
Both sides had chances to score again as the game drew to a close, notably Reds’ Wesley White, intercepting and running over 50m before being hauled down, and Roy Godfrey throwing an audacious no look pass over his shoulder that just evaded an onrushing teammate in the corner.
Both coaching teams should be satisfied with some good moments throughout the game, with Jersey Reds concluding their pre-season trilogy and the Sharks looking to welcome back their internationals in the coming weeks as the new season looms large. The Reds visit London Scottish for their Championship opener on September 18th while the first home league game will be against Bedford Blues on Saturday September 25th (k-o 2.30pm).
Report by James Hewlett; pic by Rich Chapman
JERSEY REDS (15-9, 1-8): Scott Van Breda, Ryan Olowofela, Jordan Holgate, Dan Barnes, Brendan Owen, Brendan Cope, Harry Simmons; James Flynn, Eoghan Clarke, Ciaran Parker, Sean O’Connor, Macauley Cook, Alex Humfrey, Lewis Wynne (c), Max Argyle.
Replacements: Harry Doolan, Jack Macfarlane, Huw Owen, Roy Godfrey, Jack Higgins, Max Ayling, Zak Farrance, Wesley White, Tim Grey, James Elliott, James Mitchell, Sam Leeming, Bader Pretorius, Jack Roberts.
SALE SHARKS (15-9, 1-8): Luke James, Arron Reed, Connor Doherty, Rohan Van Rensberg, Denny Solomona, Rob Du Preez, Will Cliff; Ross Harrison, Tommy Taylor, Nick Schonert, Cobus Weise, Matt Postlethwaite, Ben Curry, Sam Dugdale, Jono Ross
Replacements: Curtis Langdon, Bevan Rodd, Callum Ford, James Phillips, Akker Van Der Merwe, Raffi Quirke, Keiran Wilkinson, Sam James, Sam Hill, Tom Roebuck, Joe Carpenter.
REFEREE: Wayne Barnes. Assistants: Simon Adams, Neil Chivers
Half Time: 0-0
Tries: Hill 43, Langdon 45, Roebuck 52
Conversions: Du Preez 44, 53