Jersey Reds produced a stunningly efficient display to overpower Doncaster Knights and claim a spot in the last four of the British & Irish Cup.
Taking their chances to score when they needed to and defending with great determination, it was the Reds who triumphed in challenging conditions that saw wind and rain driving down the pitch at Stade Santander International for most of the game.
The Reds will host Leinster 'A', 17-6 winners over Irish neighbours Munster 'A', in the semi-final at Stade Santander International on either Friday 20th or Saturday 21st April.
After a scoreless first quarter the Reds upped the tempo and after making ground from a series of phases, scrum-half Kieran Hardy jinked over from the back of a ruck. The Knights had opportunities to hit back but were frustrated by solid defence and handling errors near the try-line, and right on half-time Jersey grabbed a second try: Brendan Cope kicked across, Jason Worrall and Tom Pincus challenged Charlie Foley in the air and it was Pincus who came down with the ball to score.
Dougie Flockhart gave the Knights hope with an excellently-judged long range penalty from just inside his own half, but then the Reds scored a third try to settle the nerves of home supporters; quick lineout ball seemed likely to be used for a rolling maul, but in fact the ball was worked quickly by catcher Matt Rogerson via Conor Joyce to Hardy, who raced through for his second.
When hooker Nick Selway crowned his 100th game for the Reds with a mauled try, the result was beyond doubt. The closing exchanges were fractious, featuring yellow cards for replacements Roy Godfrey and Curtis Langdon after a scuffle and a late consolation try for the Knights as Ben Hunter ploughed over by the posts.
Head Coach Harvey Biljon was delighted to see his Jersey side maintain the ambition of bettering last season's British & Irish Cup run, which culminated in a one-point defeat to Munster 'A' in the final in Cork.
"The game was in the balance at half-time, but I thought we played really well in the second half, playing against the conditions and we were brave enough to attack at key stages and come away with points," he said. "We'd done some analysis and it paid off, especially for Kieran's second try.
"We have a massive opportunity now in the semi-final to put on a performance in front of our home support and I hope there'll be plenty here to cheer us on."
Doncaster's Director of Rugby Clive Griffiths was a disappointed man after the game, which was the first time more than seven points had separated the sides in 12 meetings.
"Full credit to Jersey who took their chances to win the game, but we were frustrated by the officials and the penalty count was going against us until we got a couple of compassionate calls near the end.
"When things aren't going for you, the calls seem to go against you as well - we've been going through a difficult period, but people haven't seen the last of us."
JERSEY REDS: Van Breda (c) ; Pincus, Ma'afu (Eastwell 73), Best, Worrall; Cope, Hardy (Dudley 77); Woolmore (c) (Godfrey 65 - YC 72), Selway (Saunders 70), Armstrong (Atalifo 62), Sexton, Bartle (Kolo'ofa'i 71), Argyle (Upfield 73), Joyce, Rogerson.
DONCASTER KNIGHTS: Foley (Langdon 65 - YC 72); Flockhart, Hayes, Clark (Lewis 52), Wilson, Humberstone, Heaney (James 57); List (Evans 54), Hunter, Quigley (Sproston 57), Challinor (c), Hicks (Civetta 46), Shaw (Hill 57), Ram, Tyrell.
REFEREE: Joy Neville (IRFU). Assistants: Anthony Woodthorpe, Greg Garner
Half Time: 12-0
Man-of-the-match (as chosen by match sponsor Hacquoil & Cook): Kieran Hardy (Jersey)
Tries: Hardy 23, 56, Pincus 40, Selway 68
Conversion: Cope 23
Try: Hunter 76
Conversion: Flockhart 76
Penalty: Flockhart 51
23 Mar 2023
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