Jersey came into the game with a point to prove after shipping 50 points in the last match vs. Ealing, and were also looking to avenge the earlier cup game against Doncaster, that saw the Knights edge the contest by just 6 points. The second half of the game against Ealing, with several ‘typical Jersey’ scores, showed what the side was capable of, especially one in particular – a pre planned quick lineout deep in our own territory, going behind our own posts before breaking the length of the pitch to score, and the mood in the camp was good anticipating a big game in front of a partisan crowd under the ‘Friday Night Lights’.
From the off it was clear that the Reds were more than ready, and a cheeky grubber kick to start proceedings was very nearly re-gathered, and this invention was apparent throughout the game. The fast hands and slick moves were on show, but despite the dry conditions, a stiff swirling cross-wind was sure to play havoc with any potential kicking game.
The first attacking lineout and maul went to the Knights, but in a theme that was to last the full 80 minutes, the Jersey players smashed into every tackle and drove the Knights back.
If Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon wanted a reaction after the previous weekend, he got it in spades, as time and again his players ran through walls to not only prevent the visitors from creating chances, but driving them back towards their own line.
Doncaster did have more of the play in the early stages, but clean breaks were few and far between. The Knights lightning fast winger Tyson Lewis received the ball on the half way, and after showing quick feet to evade the first tackle, he was away down the left and appeared odds on to open the scoring. From nowhere a stunning covering tackle from scrum half Will Homer not only saved a certain try, but he managed to drag Lewis into touch and win the lineout. The crowd responded to raise the players, but in truth that was about as good as it got for the away team.
Time and again they tried to use the physical approach to batter through the Jersey defences, but every occasion the Reds were up to the task (although Jersey did lose captain Josh Bainbridge to a yellow for not rolling away). However the loss of a man was mitigated soon after as he was joined on the sideline by Knights Oli Stedman after a cynical piece of foul play that in truth, could have ended the match for both players. A huge shunt at the scrum by the home team saw a penalty go to the Reds, and the resultant kick found touch. Lightning fast thinking saw that no one was back for the Knights, and the Reds went quickly only for Stedmans forearm to catch Homer around the neck.
The sides traded penalties for most of the rest of the half, with the scrum in particular seemingly difficult to officiate, and with Jersey keeping the ball in hand, looking to force the offloads in search of tries, any clear chances were few and far between.
One area that Jersey certainly were getting the upper hand was in the physicality of the collisions, and the maul in particular was becoming as much of a weapon in securing the ball as much as an attacking force, but after a series of penalties were awarded to the visitors, the crowd roared with approval when one was finally given to the hosts.
The kick was dispatched deep into Knights territory, and the catch and drive was unstoppable, with skipper Bainbridge atoning for his earlier yellow with the games opening score in the ‘scoreboard’ corner. The touchline conversion went wide, understandably so with the wind making every ball in the air a lottery.
There was still time left in the half and the Reds went hunting once more. After a long clearance was superbly fielded by Slowik deep in the Jersey half, the Reds gained good ground before winning a penalty bang in front of the Doncaster posts. Made easier by some backchat for which the referee marched the Knights back a further 10 metres, Brendan Cope comfortably slotted the kick and the half-time score read 8-0
Into the second period, the wind now was perhaps slightly favouring the visitors, and they had an instant chance to apply the pressure as the kick off was spilt forward. The Reds were in no mood to give an inch on their own turf, and once again the visitors were pushed and shoved off the ball.
The crowd were starting to get frustrated with the repeated penalties awarded however, and on a couple of occasions Donny found themselves in good positions, but the Jersey lineout jumpers were immense, this time Kyle Hatherell climbing metres above the Knights jumpers to steal the ball and relieve pressure, but in truth, both he and man of the match Charlie Beckett were immense in the Reds engine room,
Just as the Knights began to run out of ideas, Jersey turned the screw, forcing consecutive penalties of their own, putting immense pressure on the visiting pack. Following a huge drive by the forwards, Jack MacFarlane went over for the first of his two tries. With Cope converting, Jersey were now three scores ahead at 15-0 and this cushion allowed them to relax and cut loose. Several phases in their own half sucked in the opposition and then the pace of the Jersey backs, (several now playing out of position due to injury) tore through Donny once again, but the kick through went dead, just.
Credit to Doncaster, they refused to concede the match and using the wind they managed to put pressure several times deep in the reds territory, but even when winning the lineouts, their mauls were repelled, and any resulting scrum was halted time and again.
With 12 minutes remaining and Doncaster once again on the attack, relentless Jersey pressure forced an error, and in a heartbeat the red shirts swarmed all over the ball, winning the penalty. The kick to the corner and resulting lineout was inch perfect, and the Knights could only stop the red tide illegally, with Morgan Eames seeing yellow.
The pressure was now ramped up, the Reds just too strong and too quick with the extra man. Doncaster could not contain the fast flowing rugby that Jersey were now producing. With only a few minutes remaining Joseph Sproston then had his match ended after another yellow card, and down to 13 men the inevitable penalty, kick to corner, lineout and maul led to MacFarlane crashing over for his second and the games third try. The match that had been scoreless for nearly the whole first half could perhaps now yield a try bonus point, and for the second week in a row the Reds scored one of the tries of the season.
Winning the ball deep in their own 22, and with space all around, the back division lit up the Stade Santander, moving the ball through several pairs of hands with power and pace, finally ending up with a flying Jack Stapley, who added the finishing touches to a glorious move and the Reds’ fourth try. Cope added the extras as the clock hit 80 minutes.
There was still time for one last effort from Donny from the kick off, and they produced their best move of the match, with only the final pass not going to hand, but even as they knocked on Jersey were away, breaking through the now huge gaps in the defence and a clever chip over the top went agonisingly out of reach with the try line begging.
For the second home game in a row Jersey won with a try bonus point. The defensive effort from the Reds was nothing short of exceptional, and to win a game to ‘nil’ against a side such as Doncaster was an extraordinary achievement.
The Reds now travel north for a top of the table clash to take on Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park on World Cup Final day. Kick off 1pm Saturday 2nd November.
15. Greg Dyer (Penberthy 74), 14. Jack Stapley, 13. George Spencer (Newey 53), 12. Mark Best (Jones 53), 11. Auguy Slowik, 10. Brendan Cope, 9. Will Homer. 1. Harry Morley (Godfrey 66), 2. Jack MacFarlane (Harris 74), 3. Alec Clarey (Alexis 74), 4. Charlie Beckett, 5. Kyle Hatherell, 6. Jake Upfield (Bartle 61), 7. Janco Venter (Argyle 61), 8. Josh Bainbridge (capt)
16. TJ Harris, 17. Roy Godfrey, 18. Zei Alexis, 19. Rory Bartle, 20. Max Argyle, 21. Luc Jones, 22. Aaron Penberthy, 23. James Newey
15. Cowell, 14. Evans, 13. Lucock, 12. Foley, 11. Lewis, 10. Olver, 9.James. 1.Thomas, 2.Hunter, 3. Quigley, 4.Eames, 5. Birch, 6. Edgson, 7. Hills (capt), 8. Stedman
16. Holling, 17. Hislop, 18. Foster, 19. Calladine, 20. Sproston, 21, Pocklington, 22. McPhillips, 23. Hayes
Referee: Neil Chivers.
Assistants: William Burton, Shane Michael Lewis
Half Time: 8-0
Full Time: 27-0
Man of the Match: Charlie Beckett
Jersey Reds – Josh Bainbridge 13
Doncaster Knights – Oli Stedman 18, Morgan Eames, 68, Joseph Sproston 72
Try: Bainbridge 34, MacFarlane (2) 54, 73, Stapley 75
Conversion: Cope (2) 54,75
Penalty: Cope 39
Pic courtesy Jaqueline Ranieri