Jersey Reds won the Siam Cup, sponsored by Ipes, for the ninth straight season at St Peter but were made to work very hard by their old Channel Island rivals in the closest Siam for many years.
12 months after Jersey staged a late comeback to seize the Siam at Footes Lane, Guernsey Raiders threatened to do the same in the 2017 staging. Trailing by 14 points, the visitors set up a grandstand finish thanks to a converted try with eight minutes to play. This was followed by another try deep into added time, but Kenny Hellier was just wide with the last-kick conversion that would have brought a rare Siam Cup draw.
On a grey day with almost incessant rain, Raiders’ full-back Hellier had given his side an early lead from a well-struck penalty, but spurned a second opportunity with a kick that struck the right-hand upright from moreorless in front of the posts. The visitors were punished instantly, with Jersey heading to the opposite end and securing a lineout close to the try-line. On several occasions through the match the Reds’ lineout didn’t function effectively, and this was one of them – but the ball fell kindly (Guernsey watchers felt there was a knock-on) to prop Karl Haitana, who charged over from close range. Alex Jeffery added the extras.
Haitana’s primary contribution – other than the try- was as part of a powerful Jersey scrum with fellow front-rowers Chris Pople and Nick Selway – the latter one of three professional players in the Reds’ squad – also giving strong performances.
But overall the Reds were up against it for most of the first half, but were able to cling to their four-point lead throughout the second quarter, surviving the absence of Nick Trower who was sin-binned after a series of infractions by his team. Partly the visitors let themselves down with handling errors, but there was also some resolute defence from the whole Reds team.
Two early penalties by Jeffery, who ended with a four-from-four record from the tee, plus a response from Hellier, stretched the home side’s lead to 13-6, but otherwise scoring opportunities were rare – Brian Rennison went close for Jersey, who also had another promising attack ended by the referee’s whistle for a shirt-pull in midfield.
Experienced replacements Mark McCrea and Charlie Clyde-Smith were sent on by Head Coach Myles Landick, but the latter lasted just a couple of minutes before receiving a yellow card for making a tackle from an offside position.
Moving into the final quarter, there was a great chance for the Raiders following a precise cross-field kick by fly-half Owen Thomas, but Reds’ full-back Will Kaye pulled off a crucial tackle.
The next important tackle was by Selway as Guernsey attacked inside their opponents half – the hooker dislodged the ball from his opponent and the Reds countered immediately, working the ball to Donovan Sanders on the left to draw the last man and release wing Sam Fuller for a 50-metres dash to the line.
The home supporters celebrated, thinking this was the score that finally broke the visitors’ resistance, but the 72nd minute try in the pavilion corner by replacement prop Cameron Craine changed all that. Hellier added a superb conversion from the touchline, and the Raiders had hope. As time elapsed, the Reds could have kicked the ball dead the contest, but Jeffery’s clearance landed in play and was run back by Guernsey, with the attack only breaking down when Donovan Sanders was adjudged to have deliberately knocked on. Jersey’s centre became his side’s third player to see yellow, and from the subsequent penalty hooker Tom Ceillam went over. Hellier set up the ball on virtually the same blade of grass as his previous conversion, but this time the ball drifted across the posts and the Reds had maintained their grip on the Siam.
See the Jersey Reds Facebook page for pictures of the Siam games.
The other games played on Siam Cup day finished as follows:
Fallaize Cup: Jersey Reds 2nd XV 43 Guernsey Raiders 2nd XV 21
First-half tries by some of the youngest members of a mainly inexperienced home side – James Dempsey (2), Mark Boarer and Max Whelan – saw Jersey seize a 24-0 lead before Nico Ashplant got one back before the break. The second half was a more even affair, with Callum Murdoch and Jon Laws claiming tries for the visitors, but there were also more scores from the Reds – a kick-and-chase finish by skipper Wayne Boschat, a surge from close range by Richard Vetier and a late canter from Rupert Lee. Boarer struck four successful conversions and his opposite number Alec Bailey three.
Ladies Siam: Jersey Reds Women 0 Guernsey Ladies 43
League champions Guernsey showed their strength against a home side who have been having a season of rebuilding. The gap between the sides was particularly evident in the first half: Guernsey scored an early try through Vicky Rang, Jemma Crouse and Fiona Power meant it was 17-0 after the first quarter, and by half-time the Sarnians had added four more tries through Hannah McLenan, Tanya Scholtz and a second for skipper Crouse, who also added four conversions. The home side delivered a proud performance during the second half, including some resolute defence and several near-misses in attack, but in the end it was a scoreless second half.
Nash Cup: Jersey Wanderers 10 Guernsey Veterans 19
The first match of the day saw the visitors retain the Nash Cup thanks to first-half tries by captain Carl Johnson, Nick Barton and Jim Elliott, with Barton and Andy Bailey adding a conversion each. Jersey, who had taken an early lead through Phil Walker’s penalty, were the stronger side in the second half but could only manage a single try – James Geldart going over after a spell of pressure and Walker adding the extras. But inspite of several close shaves the home side couldn’t set up a grandstand finish – that was to occur at the end of the afternoon.
Siam Cup Teams
Jersey Reds 1st XV (1-15)
Chris Pople (Jacob Carter 72), Nick Selway, Karl Haitana, Tom Tilstone, Craig Simeon (Charlie Clyde-Smith 56, YC 60), Brian Rennison, James Voss, Nick Trower (YC 27); Alex Jeffery, Joel Dudley (c); Sam Fuller, Donovan Sanders (YC 82), Scott Mclurg (Mark McCrea 51), Jack Newton; Will Kaye. Unused replacements: Dave Felton, Euan Spencer, Tommy Turner, Jonathan Glendening.
Guernsey Raiders 1st XV (1-15)
Sam Steventon (Batiste 68), Tom Ceillam, Layton Batiste (Cameron Craine 34), Lewis Hillier (c), Nick Merrien, Romain Mercadal, Dale Martin, Daniel Hill; Adam Nixon (Malcolm Barnes h-t), Owen Thomas; Luke Jones, Blair Campbell, Ned Brown, Sam Whitehead; Kenny Hellier. Unused replacements: Luke Skovronek, Patrick Ryan, David Davison, Antony Armstrong, Dom Rice.
Referee: Dan Parrott; Assistants: Andrew Jackson, Paul Kimber
Men-of-the-match (as chosen by Siam Cup sponsor Ipes): Joel Dudley (Jersey) and Kenny Hellier (Guernsey)
Tries: Haitana 16, Fuller 67
Conversions: Jeffery 16, 67
Penalties: Jeffery 42, 49
Tries: Craine 72, Ceillam 83
Conversion: Hellier 72
Penalties: Hellier 2, 44