Exactly three months after sealing victory when an opposition kicker missed a last-gasp shot at goal, the Reds once again rode their luck in claiming a precious win at Stade Santander International.
The home side were on the ropes in the dying moments of an exciting Championship encounter, two points ahead but watching helplessly as visitors London Scottish looked to set up the winning score.
Replacement fly-half Harry Sheppard dropped back for a drop goal, and as the kick went wide spectators looked to referee Sara Cox for the final whistle. But a Jersey player was ruled onside, leading to a penalty, 23 metres out and in front of the posts.
No-one in the ground would have swapped with Sheppard at that stage, and to his chagrin the ball slipped wide of the target. The drama brought back memories of the Reds’ escape against Doncaster Knights in October and – for older rugby supporters – the despair at Wembley in 1968 as Wakefield Trinity’s Don Fox missed a kick in front of the sticks to win rugby league’s Challenge Cup final in the dying moments. “Poor lad,” as legendary commentator Eddie Wareing said while commentating over the black-and-white images.
On a sunny, still day where the temperature was to drop sharply in the closing stages, the Reds sought to make a quick start, and an impressive 60-metre 50:22 kick by Dan Barnes gave them a platform for their first try, finished from close range by Eoghan Clarke.
The Exiles replied quickly after Lennox Anyanwu broke through and offloaded to fellow Harlequins’ loanee Viliami Taulani. The Tongan powered to the line, although Nathan Chamberlain missed a makeable conversion.
In seeking to extend their two-point lead over the remainder of the half, the Reds were hampered by all-too-regular penalty concessions that eventually resulted in an estimated tally of 18-8 against Harvey Biljon’s side. The Exiles’ scrum also held up well to begin with, but the home pack began to increase the pressure shortly before the break, and during a penalty advantage from a dominant scrum Russell Bennett fired the ball wide to Will Brown, whose pace and spring-heeled dive gave him the try in the corner.
Scottish pushed to level things up before the teams headed to the changing rooms, and claimed their second try when first-phase scrum ball was worked to full-back Cam Anderson who broke through and finished well in the corner.
Jersey had already introduced two new forwards from the bench by this stage, with Clarke forced off through injury and replaced by James Hadfield, and Hallam Chapman brought on for Tim Grey in the back row.
The Exiles had hopes of taking the lead soon after the resumption, but a spilled pass in midfield was punished ruthlessly by Brown, who hacked forward twice, gathered the ball and scored after a 70-metre dash.
In a match that was to maintain an alternating scoring sequence throughout, scrum-half Dan Nutton was the next blue-shirted responder, taking possession from a well-worked lineout move and powering through opposite number James Elliott to the line. Chamberlain could have tied things up at 17-all, but again couldn’t find the target with his conversion attempt.
Pressing for a bonus-point try, the hosts thought they had succeeded when Bennett’s cross-kick was caught by Ryan Hutler, who squeezed over for the try only for play to be called back for a penalty. Soon afterwards Bennett saw another free man on the flank and fired a long flat pass across to Brendan Owen for a straightforward finish.
With a strong bench, including four more Quins’ loanees, the Exiles were in no mood to give up and newly-arrived replacement hooker Sam Riley powered over with 13 minutes to play, Sheppard’s conversion making it 24-22.
Both sides had chances to score again, with Bennett achieving a 50:22 kick to add to a previous successful effort earlier in the half, but as time elapsed it was Scottish who were attacking, setting up the dramatic finale that would decide the outcome.
Jersey’s Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon, who had already headed to the changing rooms as the potential winning kick was being lined up, was a relieved man after the game and gave credit to the visitors.
“Scottish came away and showed a huge amount of spirit,” he said. “They didn’t get the rub of the green, and probably deserved to win.
“We’d make no excuses – there were lots of changes, but we had real confidence in the players selected.
“Some parts were very good, but there are others we need to work on.”
While the Reds have a tough trip to the Mennaye Field to take on the Cornish Pirates in round 14, the Exiles will return to the Athletic Ground in Richmond and take on Ampthill, who lie one place and six points above them in the Championship table.
Picture: Jacquie Ranieri (see Facebook for more)
JERSEY REDS: Owen B, Hutler, Powell (Holgate 51), Barnes, Brown; Bennett, Elliott; McGrath (Owen H 69), Clarke (Hadfield 37), Longwell, Bain (O’Connor 46), Scott, Dun, Wynne (c) (Gray 69), Grey (Chapman 26). Unused: Weatherby, Law
LONDON SCOTTISH: Anderson; Mehson, Anyanwu, Hyde, Ferdinand (Wara 49); Chamberlain (Sheppard 59), Nutton (Petrozzi 70); Courtney (Els 59), Morris (Riley 51), Rees (Hobson 51), Wilkinson, Ransom, Tuilagi (Jurevicius 51), Ingall (c), Taulani (Wallis 63).
REFEREE: Sara Cox. Assistants: Mike Woods, Kevin Williams
Half Time: 12-10
Tries: Clarke 7, Brown 35, 46, Owen B 62
Conversions: Bennett 7, 62
Tries: Taulani 15, Anderson 39, Nutton 52, Riley 67
Conversion: Sheppard 67
03 Feb 2023
Home side look to improve poor record over London rivals