The Reds defied injury problems and a determined display by opponents Hartpury to claim an important win that moved them three points clear of their opponents in the Championship table.
Tries from Nick Selway and Jason Worrall, plus eight points from the boot of Brendan Cope, helped the Reds to a hard-fought but deserved win to give the Christmas party crowd something to cheer about.
From the start, Jersey used a dominant scrum as an attacking platform, and when a penalty was kicked to the corner, a powerful maul followed by a series of close-range drives eventually saw Nick Selway claim the opening score. There were isolated flashes from both teams, but few genuine scoring opportunities.
Hartpury asked serious questions of the home defence in the closing stages of the half, but the Reds held firm and increased their lead soon after the break through Brendan Cope's penalty. Hartpury were soon back in it when Nick Carpenter raced on to an artful kick over the defence by Callum Braley and touched down.
After the concession of several penalties by his team, Hartpury replacement Joe Mullis was sin-binned for illegally spoiling at a ruck and the Reds seized their opportunity. Firstly Cope added another three points from the tee, and then a perfectly-judged grubber from Mark Best led to a try from Jason Worrall. The full-back showed great pace and then balance to toe-end the ball over the line and touch down.
Eves showed similar pace and finishing skill to be awarded his 78th-minute try from a James Williams' kick through, with Jersey protests about a knock-on in the build-up falling on deaf ears, but the Reds were able to finish the job in spite of a late scare when possession was turned over, only for Hartpury to knock on near half-way.
For the Reds, the front row produced stand-out displays, as did centre Mark Best. Of the two former Jersey players on show for Hartpury, Luke Stratford gave a lion-hearted effort at hooker for the visitors, playing 65 minutes and then returning to the fray as a sin-bin replacement, but there was no chance for Harry Cochrane to shine after his introduction was delayed until the 79th minute.
Reds' Head Coach Harvey Biljon paid tribute to the effort of his injury-hit squad.
"We'd trained this week without a back-line and the disruption showed at times, but we ground out the win," he said. "Our defensive play was outstanding, barring two scores against the run of play, and I'm really proud of the commitment shown.
"It was a great Christmas present and all involved have earned a couple of days off to celebrate, but then we'll be looking to carry this on in Cornwall, and we know how tough it'll be against the Pirates."
Hartpury Head Coach Mark Cornwell said his side had shown character throughout the match.
"We approached the game believing we could get something out of it and ended up with a valuable point," he said. "We could have got the win, but with a couple of minutes left we had nothing, so it's mixed feelings.
"Jersey are a physical side and don't make it easy for you - we said at half-time that one error or piece of indiscipline could make the difference, and when we went down to 14 men they scored the crucial points."
JERSEY REDS: Worrall; Pincus, Best, Bryant (Dudley 74), Hodson; Cope, Hardy (Duchesne 77); Woolmore (c) (Godfrey 65), Selway (Macfarlane 60), Armstrong (Atalifo 74), Sexton, Voss (Mckern 65), Argyle (Upfield 75), Joyce, Rogerson.
HARTPURY: Wilcox; Creed, Eves, Carpenter, Sheldon (Cochrane 79); Williams, Braley; Murphy (Flook 74), Stratford (Mullis 65, YC 68), Gibson (Daniels HT), Edwards, Oakley (c), Dancer, Gilbert (Hinkley 59), Dyer (So’oialo-Chan 49). Not used: Perry
REFEREE: Dean Richards. Assistants: Darryl Chapman, Lionel Spooner
Half Time: 7-0
Man-of-the-match: Jake Armstrong (Jersey Reds)
Tries: Selway 15, Worrall 75
Conversion: Cope 15
Penalties: Cope 47, 68
Tries: Carpenter 53, Eves 78
Conversions: Williams 53, 78
03 Feb 2023
Home side look to improve poor record over London rivals