Forward power on a heavy pitch was the key ingredient that saw the Reds come from behind to claim a deserved win over Nottingham, the home side’s third consecutive Championship win at Stade Santander International.
Several hours’ incessant rain eased just before kick-off but nevertheless left the pitch muddy and made handling difficult, putting a premium on a strong set piece.
The Reds claimed an early score, gaining territory through two penalties and a series of phases that culminated in scrum-half Luc Jones burrowing his way over.
Working their way back into the game, Nottingham levelled the scores through a penalty try, awarded after a maul was brought down, earning Janco Venter 10 minutes in the sin-bin.
Visiting fly-half Shane O’Leary slotted a neat drop goal to give his side the lead, with the Reds unable to counter before the break in spite of dominating possession in the closing stages. A late penalty looked like the perfect platform to unleash a driving maul, but Brendan Cope’s touch-finder drifted the wrong side of the corner flag.
The Jersey scrum had more opportunities to show their strength after the break, gaining a series of penalties at scrum time. Initially the home side failed to take advantage, but then Jones sniped down the blind side from a maul and found prop Roy Godfrey in support for the try.
There were isolated flashes of attacking promise from Jersey’s backs, with Brendan Owen looking lively on his home debut, but otherwise this was a day for the forwards. Props Godfrey and Alec Clarey led the way during committed shifts of 72 minutes each, earning the latter the man-of-the-match nomination.
Nottingham’s resistance was eventually ended by two yellow cards in as many minutes – replacement prop Jamie Jack paid the price for one scrum offence too many, and then a maul was brought down, earning Josh Poullet a trip to the bin.
Holding out in defence with only 13 men was too great a task for the visitors and the Reds maul claimed a try for replacement hooker TJ Harris. There was still time for the Reds to claim maximum points, but the heavy pitch and tricky handling conditions took their toll and there were no further points.
“We managed to claw our way back into the game and in the end were a bit disappointed not to get a bonus point,” said Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon. “It took a while, but our forwards were fantastic today and our defence was also very strong.”
The Reds wore one-off shirts for the game, designed by Plat Douet pupil Emily Neil (10), who won a competition run by main sponsor Santander International that formed part of the Durrell Wildlife Foundation’s Go Wild initiative. The limited edition shirts, featuring one of the ring-tailed lemurs resident at Jersey Zoo, are available to acquire via a silent auction – contact Sean Dunne for details. The match was preceded by applause in tribute to club stalwart Adrian Willis, who died on October 27th.
JERSEY REDS: Slowik; Stapley (Morgan 48), Newey (Spencer 51), Cope, Owen; Dyer, Jones (Homer 75); Godfrey (Morley 72), Macfarlane (Harris 52), Clarey (Atalifo 72), Beckett, Bartle, Hatherell (Argyle 64), Argyle (c) (Bainbridge 60), Venter (YC19) (Upfield 48).
NOTTINGHAM: Scanlon (c); Bungaroo (Strong 72), Thomas, Peters, Foley; O’Leary (McPhillips 7-18, 64), Dolly (McConnell 51); Sio (Jack 60, YC 69), Cole (Brownlie 60), Walker (Heffernan 48), Jones (Jordan 64), Qualter, Connolly, Owen (Lewis 52), Poullet (YC 70)
REFEREE: George Selwood. Assistants: Ian Bibey, Peter Brunt
Half Time: 7-10
Star Man: Alec Clarey (Jersey Reds)
Tries: Jones 4, Godfrey 60, Harris 71
Conversions: Cope 4, 60
Try: Penalty try 19
Drop-goal: O’Leary 32
/*pics courtesy Rich Chapman & Ollie Pinel*/