There may have been nothing to separate the sides in the league table before kick-off, but the match itself saw a below-par Bedford Blues clinically dispatched by an excellent display by the home side.
Two tries in each half were enough to secure a maximum 5-0 points haul and extend the Reds’ unbeaten league record on home turf to 11 months, setting up an exciting challenge away from home next weekend against league leaders London Irish.
Fly-half Lewis Robling, one of four ex-Jersey players in the Blues’ starting XV – while a fifth, Alex Rae, watched from the coaching bench – gave his side the lead with an early penalty, but the Reds were soon in front when Blues were penalised for offside near halfway. Aaron Penberthy kicked to the Bowl corner and Charlie Maddison finished a well-executed rolling maul. And then the Jersey backs showed their attacking potency, with Leroy Van Dam making ground on the left flank and passing inside to Will Homer, who fed the ball inside to Auguy Slowik to finish near the posts.
The Blues gained an opportunity with an attacking lineout and a well-worked peel move saw Jarad Williams surge to the line and keep his side within range at the interval.
A strong start by the visitors after the resumption saw a stream of penalty concessions by the home side, but the Blues weren’t able to capitalise in the face of some solid Red defence.
Jersey’s third try came from a Bedford kick fielded in front of his own posts by Roy Godfrey; the prop initiated an attack out of defence, with James Newey taking the ball across halfway with an electric burst and Jason Worrall almost crossing in the corner – a great cover tackle by Blues prop Sean McCarthy. The defence held firm, but after further phases Bedford ran out of numbers and Godfrey made the decisive sprint to the line – a try to celebrate after the South African was denied a score in the match at Goldington Road earlier in the season.
More thrilling Reds attack saw Janco Venter storm forward and gain support from Apakuki Ma’afu and Max Argyle, who was brought down by some determined last-ditch defence. The fourth try came soon afterwards, with Nick Selway crossing from a rolling maul after Blues centre Matt Worley was penalised for a deliberate knock-on in the face of more pressure. Ryan Hutler grabbed one back for the visitors after a defensive mix-up, and the Blues continued to show glimpses in attack, but the Reds maintained a reasonably comfortable lead. Penberthy’s late penalty made sure, and completed a very respectable four-from-five performance from the tee by Jersey’s fly-half.
“Both teams were really going at it and I was impressed by the way our players balanced their attacking play with some solid work at the set piece,” said Harvey Biljon. “The effort in defence was exceptional and it was great to see Roy Godfrey crossing for his try – we see that sort of play from the forwards in training and it was good to see it executed on a match-day.
“We’ve got a trip to London Irish coming up next week – live on Sky and a great occasion for the players and supporters to look forward to.”
Blues’ forwards coach Alex Rae said: “Our discipline let us down a bit in the first half, and when Jersey got field position they took their chances well. We had opportunities early in the second half, but our detail was off – points at that stage and it could have been a different game.”
The five points in the 2pm kick-off took the Reds above Bedford and briefly into second in the table, before a second half Ealing comeback against London Scottish saw the Trailfinders reclaim their ranking.
JERSEY REDS: Slowik; Worrall, Newey (Eastwell 65), Ma’afu, Van Dam; Penberthy, Homer (Howley 74); Godfrey (Morley 72), Maddison (Selway 59), Atalifo (Rodman 63), Sexton (c), Beckett (McKern 65), Bartle, Argyle, Venter (Upfield 69).
BEDFORD BLUES: Lane; Hutler, Worley (YC 60), Czejkal, Adamson (Sharp 54); Robling, Dickson (c) (Lennon 47); McCarthy (Trinder 61), Clare (Fields 58), Penny (Cooper 58), Carrick-Smith (Taylor 54), Flanagan, Blanchet (Worthington 56), Buggea, Williams.
REFEREE: Sara Cox. Assistants: Darryl Chapman, Ian Bibey
Half Time: 14-8
Man-of-the-match (as chosen by match-day sponsor Carey Olsen): Janco Venter (Jersey Reds)
Tries: Maddison 15, Slowik 20, Godfrey 53, Selway 61
Conversions: Penberthy 15, 20, 53
Penalties: Penberthy 74
Tries: Williams 25, Hutler 65
Penalty: Robling 6