Will Brown opened his Reds’ try-scoring account in style at Stade Santander International, grabbing a hat-trick in the opening half-hour to help seal a bonus-point win for the Reds.
The home side’s dominant first-half display raised hopes of passing their season-high tally of 47 points on the opening day of the campaign at London Scottish, but as it turned out the win was a far less comfortable affair.
Visitors Coventry battled back to within a score of Jersey and there was relief when the Reds were able to see out the final minute of the game out of harm’s way in their opponents’ 22.
The home side’s first attack brought a try within two minutes of kick-off, with Dan Barnes putting through a deft grubber that was fielded by Brown as he slid across the line just inside the corner flag at the Investec End (Rue des Landes).
Rob Knox landed a penalty from halfway after Jersey’s Steve Longwell was yellow-carded for dangerous entry to a breakdown, but soon afterwards the Reds had a second try. Another grubber-kick was involved, with Ryan Olowofela’s effort causing panic in the opposing defence and leading to a wild pass by Joe Richardson that went astray in-goal and was pounced on by Brown.
The Reds forwards were becoming dominant, especially at scrum time and broke the game open by registering two tries in three minutes: a penalty try for collapsing a maul, with Max Williams sent to the sin-bin, and Max Argyle charging off the back of a turbo-charged scrum to feed Brown for his hat-trick score. With Eoghan Clarke crossing from close range just before the break, the Reds appeared to have the game wrapped up.
In increasingly tricky conditions, with driving drizzle across the ground and visibility levels dropping, the Reds found themselves under pressure as the second half progressed, and the penalty count against them mounted, with around 11 concessions during the second half. After a team warning, James Flynn was sin-binned for persistent offending after 55 minutes and in the following play Will Hurd barged over for Cov’s opening try.
Both sides had chances but could not take them until Cov struck twice in quick succession while both sides had 14 players after Argyle and Luc Jeannot saw yellow for separate technical offences. Aaron Hinkley claimed another close-range effort and then a fine counter-attack was finished by replacement scrum-half Joe Snow for what was arguably the try of the day.
Although there was just time to restart, Sam Leeming fired a deep restart towards the airport corner and the visitors were not able to get out of their 22 in the quest for an unlikely win.
Reds Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon was pleased to win, but disappointed with his side’s second half display.
“We played confidently in the first half and our tactics were coming off,” he said. “But from about 50 minutes our execution became poor when we had chances and I am looking to the squad to continue playing for 80 minutes – that’s what is needed if they are going to continue to improve.”
Hat-trick man Brown said: “My first try [for Jersey] was a long time coming, it’s something I have been thinking about – today the ball bounced for me and good things came in threes.”
Cov DoR Rowland Winter said: “We definitely struggled in the first half, Jersey put us under a lot of pressure, especially up front.
“If you’d told me at half-time that we’d have the chance of a win in the last play, I’d have taken it. I’m proud of the second half display, so the boys get a pat on the head for that, and a kick up the backside for the first half.”
Although they did secure a losing bonus point, it was a difficult day for the visitors, who had previously won two of their three Championship games at the Stade. The result was Cov's fifth consecutive away loss of the season and they were later forced to spend an unscheduled night on the Island after the aircraft for their evening flight home was unable to land as a result of poor visibility.
Pictures by Rich Chapman
JERSEY REDS: Owen; Olowofela, Holgate (Roberts 66), Barnes, Brown (Simmons 68); Leeming, Elliott (Mitchell 60); Flynn (YC 55) (Godfrey 66), Clarke (Doolan 66), Longwell (YC 7) (Yendle 52), O’Connor (Everard 63), Cook, Humfrey (Ayling 78), Wynne (c), Argyle (YC 75).
COVENTRY: Knox (Mitchell 63); Stevenson; Forsyth, Owen, James (Stanton 55); Fenner, Barton (Snow 44); Richardson D (Jeannot h-t, YC 69), Richardson J (Blake 63), Boulton (capt) (Hurd 44), Williams (YC 26), Kpoku (Dacres 44), Peters, Hinkley, Betteridge (Ball 63).
REFEREE: Dan Jones. Assistants: Ryan Collier, Ian Bibey
Half Time: 29-3
Man-of-the-match (as chosen by match sponsor abrdn: Will Brown (Jersey)
Tries: Brown 2, 11, 29, Penalty try 26, Clarke 38
Conversion: Leeming 38
Tries: Hurd 56, Hinkley 75, Snow 77
Conversions: Knox 56, Fenner 75, 77
Penalty: Knox 8
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