Although there was little to choose between the Reds and Doncaster Knights across the first four months of the Championship season, Saturday’s contest between the two clubs was a more one-sided affair.
Showing better discipline, an ability to keep their opponents under pressure and a knack of taking scoring chances when they arose, the Knights claimed maximum points at Stade Santander International. In doing so the Yorkshiremen moved back to the top of the Championship table, just ahead of Ealing Trailfinders – albeit that the Londoners have two games in hand.
The Reds were left disappointed after a game in which they conceded nine penalties in each half and were notably below-par prior to the break, at which point they trailed 0-15.
On a still, dry but chilly afternoon, Sam Olver gave the visitors the lead with a straightforward penalty, the first of a stream of decisions that reflected the ill-discipline throughout the game by a pressurised home side, with ‘not rolling away’ the most frequent offence signaled by referee Sara Cox.
The Reds’ best chance came from an attacking lineout in the second minute, but a move to attack down the touchline was snuffed out.
With Olver missing his second attempt, there were just three points between the sides at the half-hour mark, with the visitors having come closest to scoring when Kyle Evans raced towards the line but was bundled into touch just short by opposing wingers Will Brown and Ryan Hutler.
The Knights claimed their first try when scrum-half Alex Dolly found himself in the first-receiver position, spotted space behind the Reds midfield, chipped over and Mark Best collected and crossed the try-line against his former club.
The visitors were able to stretch their lead before the break with a score from close range by Thom Smith, resulting in a significant margin as the sides returned to the changing rooms. It was only the second time in a dozen games this season the Reds had failed to score in a half of rugby, the second half against Coventry being the other occasion.
Both sides were looking to attack after the resumption, with replacement Scott Van Breda providing some energy for the Reds on his first appearance since September. Olver added an early penalty, but then the Reds’ forwards worked an opening try with Sean O’Connor touching down at the back of the maul in the pavilion corner.
Olver’s third penalty stretched the lead on the hour but then Ryan Olowofela broke down the left flank and passed inside to replacement scrum-half James Elliott, who slid over the line for his side’s second try, impressively converted by 'SVB'.
Home hopes of getting back into the game were quashed by a powerful Knights’ maul with 10 minutes to play. Several backs joined the surge and one of them – Connor Edwards – secured the ball and broke free to score.
Elliott scored a second try from Brown’s pass after the winger had collected a long bouncing pass from Jordan Holgate. The score gave the home side hope of a bonus point or two if they could fashion one more try, but this ambition was snuffed out in the dying moments as another close-range drive by the Doncaster pack was again finished by a back, Olver claiming the five points, plus another two with a well-struck conversion.
Head Coach Rob Webber had a disappointing first game in charge of the Reds as Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon served out a one-match disciplinary ban, and was in no mood to dress up his side’s performance, especially in the first half.
“It was a very poor first-half display, we were lethargic, let ourselves down and really weren’t at the races,” he said. “We gave a really good outfit too much of a head start, and although we fought to the end, we’d given ourselves too much to do.”
Although the result signaled the end of a seven-game unbeaten run for the Reds in league matches on their home turf, they remained third in the Championship rankings, only trailing the Knights by seven points with a game-in-hand.
Head Coach Steve Boden was delighted to seal the win and then add some late polish to the scoreline courtesy of a bonus point try with two minutes to play.
“It was a big result away from home at what is a tough place to play,” he said. “I’d have been perfectly happy to get four points, but the extra one was the gloss.
“We really stuck to out game-plan – we knew Jersey’s strengths and the aim was to nullify them.”
Next weekend sees the Reds travel to Ampthill prior to a home game with Richmond on Saturday January 29th (k-o 2pm).
There was a good result for Jersey Reds Athletic, winning 31-36 at Bishop’s Stortford in the Raging Bull Shield.
Pic by Rich Chapman, other pics at www.facebook.com/JerseyRFC/photos
JERSEY REDS: Simmons (Van Breda 30); Hutler, Olowofela, Holgate, Brown; Owen B, Mitchell (Elliott 54); Flynn(Owen H 57), Clarke (Doolan 70), Longwell (Higgins 57), O’Connor (Everard 63), Cook, Argyle (Humfrey 47), Wynne (c) (Grey 57), White.
DONCASTER KNIGHTS: McBryde ; Evans, Margetts (Edwards 68), Best, Holden; Olver, Dolly (Green 76); Davidson (Carlile 63), Roberts, Foster (Connolly 72), Murphy (Peters 61), Drake (Oram 63), Hudson (Volpi 30), Graham, Smith. Unused: Hunter
REFEREE: Sara Cox. Assistants: Neil Chivers, Peter Brunt
Half Time: 0-15
Tries: O’Connor 53, Elliott 63, 73
Conversions: Van Breda 63, 73
Tries: Best 30, Smith 36, Edwards 71, Olver 78
Conversions: Olver 30, 71, 78
Penalties: Olver 9, 47, 60
Why not come a chillout in the supporters marquee before the game, A fully stocked bar and food is available, seated and standing tables, on a first come first served basis and a great place to meet the Reds supporters.