English champions Leicester Tigers and Championship outfit Jersey Reds provided each other with a valuable first pre-season outing, with Tigers running out 35-26 winners in the Channel Islands’ evening sunshine.
With 61 players named across the two matchday squads, rolling subs in force, and players short of match fitness, this could have been a fractured and scrappy contest, but it proved to be nothing of the sort.
Former Jersey hooker Charlie Clare put the visitors ahead from a maul after 15 minutes, but the Reds were just two points adrift heading towards half time thanks to Ryan Hutler’s score in the corner from a pass by on-loan Tigers’ scrum-half Jonny Law. A burst of three tries in seven minutes though (Olly Cracknell with a brace and replacement James Cronin) ensured the Tigers led 28-5 at the break.
Jersey started the second half brightly, and tries from Australian wing Ben Woollett and skipper Lewis Wynne, beneath the posts, narrowed the deficit to nine points. Woollett took advantage of a bouncing ball from James Mitchell’s kick that wrong-footed Tigers’ Nemani Nadolo, while the Reds’ skipper just strolled through a huge gap at the side of a ruck that followed a penetrating run by Brendan Owen.
The Premiership side hit back through Bryce Hegarty before James Hadfield ran in the Reds’ fourth try taking a pass popped off the ground by Woollett after the winger had beaten his man and cut inside towards the line.
Jersey director of rugby, Harvey Biljon, said: “We showed some key characteristics that are going to be fundamental to any team that wants to do well. There was resilience, great attitude, some good character and how we stuck at it. What a privilege it is to have the current Premiership champions here in Jersey. I’m sure they’ll take a huge amount from it, and we definitely will."
The Reds will face two further challenges from top-tier sides in the next few weeks when they host London Irish and then Bath in the build up to the new league campaign.
Pic by Jacquie Ranieri; report by Tim Pryor
Referee: Joe James. Assistants: Darryl Chapman and Ian Bibey
Jersey Reds (15-9, 1-8, * = debut): Scott Van Breda; Tomi Lewis*, Charlie Powell*, Jordan Holgate, Ryan Hutler; Russell Bennett*, Jonny Law*; Huw Owen, Antonio ‘TJ’ Harris, Monty Weatherby, Tom Everard, James Scott, James Dun*, Lewis Wynne (capt), Alun Lawrence.
Replacements: Eoghan Clarke, James Hadfield*, Sam Grahamslaw*, Greg McGrath*, Steve Longwell, Josh Gray*, Tim Grey; James Mitchell, James Elliott, Brendan Cope, Tom Pittman, Will Brown, Dan Barnes, Alex McHenry*, Ben Woollett*, Brendan Owen
Leicester Tigers (15-9, 1-8): Anthony Watson; Harry Potter, Phil Cokanasiga, Jimmy Gopperth, Nemani Nadolo; Freddie Burns, Ben Youngs; François van Wyk, Charlie Clare, Dan Cole, Harry Wells, Eli Snyman, George Martin, Olly Cracknell, Hanro Liebenberg (capt)
Replacements: Tom Cowan-Dickie, Joe Taufete’e, James Cronin, James Whitcombe, Will Hurd, Nephi Leatigaga, Cameron Henderson, Finn Carnduff, Sean Jansen, Sam Edwards, Bryce Hegarty, Matt Scott, Joe Browning, Kini Murimurivalu, Lachlan Shelley
Tries: Hutler 28, Woollett 42, Wynne 54, Hadfield 70
Conversions: Cope 42, 54, 70
Tries: Clare 15, Cracknell 33, 37, Cronin 40, Hegarty 54
Conversions: Burns 15, 33, 37, 40, Hegarty 54
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