The Reds defied injuries and a red card mid-way through the game to progress majestically, and with plenty to spare, to the semi-finals of the Championship Cup.
The home side held a narrow lead of five points over Hartpury as the second half kicked off, and promptly lost Sean O’Connor as the second row was shown red for a dangerous clear-out.
Rather than shrinking, the Reds rose to the challenge and racked up 18 unanswered points over the next 35 minutes, more than they’d managed with a full complement of players.
Eoghan Clarke’s mauled try in front of the big screen, following an early scrum penalty, gave the hosts the lead, but Hartpury replied in kind through Will Britton, taking the lead as James Williams converted.
Scrums were becoming a real headache for the visitors and could have prompted a second yellow card after Charlie Foley was despatched to the bin earlier for a blatant slap-down. In the event, before any further sanction was deemed necessary, Tim Grey barged over powerfully under the posts from another scrum. Sadly the number 8 was stretchered off just after the restart with an ankle injury, joining scrum-half James Elliott – who had departed the fray after 17 minutes – on the casualty list.
As well as their forward dominance, the Reds were looking potent in the backs throughout the first half, which had begun with a sequence of at least a dozen phases of pacy attacking. But they were unable to translate this into points, with a late penalty kick to the Bowl corner by Brendan Cope just missing touch.
As the match resumed, the Reds stood tall after O’Connor’s departure for a clear-out offence involving his opposite number Britton and within two minutes had stretched their lead. James Mitchell took a high ball near halfway and raced forward, with the ball passed rapidly through three more sets of hands – Cope, Jack Roberts and Scott Van Breda – to reach Dan Barnes, who cut inside to score.
Cope helped his side pull clear with a conversion and two penalties, the second of which saw Britton binned for cynical play at the breakdown.
The Jersey energy levels didn’t drop, with the maul remaining an attacking weapon and the pack eventually rumbling over from 20 metres out for a try by TJ Harris. There was just time for the visitors to grab a consolation score through Foley, but the result was well beyond doubt by that point.
Jersey director of rugby Harvey Biljon was buzzing after seeing his side secure a home semi-final against Coventry or Doncaster.
“We had to deal with quite a bit of adversity through first-half injuries and the red card, but the squad showed real character and resilience, didn’t they problem-solve well?” he said. “Hartpury came here with some belief that they could turn us over after last week, but the attitude and spirit I saw from our players were pretty special.”
Hartpury head coach Mark Cornwell rued his side’s failure to capitalise on the one-man advantage.
“It was like we lost a man rather than Jersey, it seemed to affect us more,” Cornwell said. “They managed to hold us out, we made some errors and the game petered out.”
Set-piece dominance had been a key factor, Cornwell added, with the Reds’ forwards asserting themselves in this second-leg tie having largely failed to do so in the previous week’s drawn match in Gloucestershire.
Pictures by Rich Chapman
JERSEY REDS: Owen; Van Breda, Roberts, Barnes, Brown, Cope (Leeming 71), Elliott (Mitchell 17); Flynn (Godfrey 60), Clarke (Harris 60), Longwell (Nicol 56), O’Connor (RC 44), Cook (Humfrey 66), Argyle, Wynne (capt), Grey (White 23, Everard 44).
HARTPURY: Simpson; Forrester (McNab 52), Smith R, Foley (YC 18, Matthews 60), Smith S; Williams, Lennon (Jones 48); Fry (Holsey h-t), Crane (capt) (Hunt 52), Knight (Benz-Salomon 44), Lemon, Britton (YC 70), Gray, Hastings (Short 52), Howard (Robinson 48).
REFEREE: Adam Wookey. Assistants: Gregg Dawson, Mike Woods
Half Time: 12-7
Tries: Clarke 9, Grey 21, Barnes 46, Harris 78
Conversions: Cope 21, 46
Penalties: Cope 60, 70
Tries: Britton 13, Foley 79
Conversions: Williams 13, Foley 79
Why not get yourself a Hot Pot (Curry or Chilli served with rice) in the supporters marquee £8 per pot.