Jersey Reds secured the club’s highest finish in five Championship campaigns, getting the better of a proud Richmond side in a game that was in doubt until the closing stages.
Ross Adair’s interception with three minutes to go sealed the win, and fifth place, for the Islanders, who now switch their focus to Friday’s B&I Cup Final against Munster ‘A’ in Cork.
Head Coach Harvey Biljon, changed his entire starting XV for the final league outing and was pleased with the efforts of his squad.
“To see out the league season with a five-point win at home was great,” he said. “It wasn’t a classic – we had some difficulty at the set-piece and perhaps some players were if anything trying too hard to get on the plane to Ireland.
“I’m hopeful we survived without injuries and we’ll switch our focus very quickly to Friday’s cup final, which is a massive game for the club.
In a below-par start, the home side lost a scrum against the head and then saw Richmond attack via a kick to the corner and a rolling maul, which eventually brought a try for Adam Peters. The scores were levelled when Uili Kolo’ofa’i somehow evaded Richmond’s defensive radar at a maul and ran unopposed to the posts, and then Jersey took the lead before half-time when Max Argyle finished off another maul, taking advantage of a yellow card for Richmond’s Rupert Harden for persistent infringement.
The home side couldn’t convert pressure into points in the third quarter and had their lead pegged back to two points when Cameron Mitchell squeezed over in the corner.
Apakuki Maafu’s burst through the middle set up Jersey’s third try – the Tongan followed up but neither he nor the Richmond defence could gather the ball and Lewis Robling was on hand to score. With a man advantage after Jersey’s James Voss saw yellow for illegally slowing down the ball, Richmond still wouldn’t give up, and a great run by Mitchell led to a score by replacement Ali Chisholm, but Adair’s interception gave the home side the final word.
Though disappointed with the result, Richmond Director of Rugby Steve Hill hailed a committed season-long effort by his players.
“All season we’ve shown that we deserve to be in this league; we’d achieved our aim of finishing off the bottom and that’s a great effort by players who have day-jobs and are up against full-timers.”
JERSEY REDS: Katz; Adair, Robling, Eastwell (Ma’afu 16), Lane; Cope, Dudley (Fisilau 58); McCarthy (c) (Woolmore 62), Selway (Macfarlane 53), Armstrong (Tampin 50), Campbell (McKern 47), Kolo’ofa’i, Voss (YC 71), Rae (Haining 62), Argyle.
RICHMOND: Kirby; Simpson-Hefft, Mitchell, Mclean (Chisholm 67), Woodward; Gabbitass, Stuart (Gibbs 68); Walford (Cunnew 55), Grimstone (Townsend 57), Harden (YC 31, Tarrant 67), Warden (c), Corker, Peters (Tarrant 37-41, Sargeant 68), Allcock (Edwards 61), Davies.
REFEREE: Fergus Kirby. Assistants: Michael Patz, Michael Hudson
Half Time: 14-7
Man-of-the-match (as chosen by match sponsor Rubis Fuel Supplies: Lewis Robling (Jersey Reds)
Tries: Kolo’ofa’i 19, Argyle 32, Robling 67, Adair 77
Conversions: Cope 19, 32, 67, 77
Tries: Peters 6, Mitchell 60, Chisholm 74
Conversion: Kirby 6