Playing host to the league leaders seems to bring out the best in Jersey Reds, and it was no exception at a sun-bathed Stade Santander International as former table-toppers Cornish Pirates were put to the sword.
Jersey Reds produced a powerful display to finish convincing winners against the team who had topped the Championship table at the start of the day.
With three tries, allied to flawless goal-kicking from Aaron Penberthy, a powerful set-piece effort and teak-tough defence, there was a lot for a crowd of 1,660 to be happy about.
The Reds looked to attack from the early stages and could have opened the scoring had Leroy Van Dam been able to take a pass from Auguy Slowik. But then the Jersey forwards turned the ball over at scrum time and when the ball was fed into midfield, James Newey broke through and raced to the line.
A mauled try from Charlie Maddison stretched the score after Mark Best had launched a booming penalty touch-finder down towards the airport corner; then former Pirate Aaron Penberthy landed a penalty from his own half to make it 17-0. The visitors only got on the scoreboard with the last play of the half, Will Cargill slotting a penalty after some phases of attack.
The second half was a more even contest and the home team soaked up longer spells of pressure, which meant several penalties were conceded, but also saw the Pirates being forced into errors as they tried to chased the game.
Jersey were also able to launch attacks of their own, and a Van Dam counter might have led to a try only for Jake Upfield to be tackled as he juggled the ball. Penberthy kept the scoreboard ticking with two more penalties before the fly-half completed a 100 per cent effort with the boot by slotting over a neat drop kick.
In the closing stages, Pirates finally breached the Reds’ line when replacement hooker Sam Matavesi broke through and cantered to the posts, but the home side had the final word when another dominant scrum saw possession gained at the opposite end, and Calum Waters fed Koch Marx for a score. There was even the chance to seek a fourth try and a bonus point in the final minute, but four points was nevertheless a very impressive haul from the home side, who moved up one place to sixth in the Championship table.
Reds’ Head Coach Harvey Biljon was delighted to have overseen another win over his former club.
“We showed real character, especially with some leaders among the squad not available today and the new faces really stepping up,” he said. “Our defence and work to achieve turnovers was very good – we were good with the ball, and also when we didn’t have it.”
Pirates’ Co-Coach Alan Paver had few complaints about the result.
“We were outplayed, and it was one of those days where if something could go wrong, it did,” he said. “Having said that, Jersey put us under tremendous pressure, especially in the set-piece, and they deserved that scoreline.
“We lacked zip today, and we struggled to get parity in the scrum, which we knew would be a critical area. It’s a long season and we’ll need to focus on what we’ve been doing right up to this point.”
JERSEY REDS: Slowik; Marx, Newey, Best (Herron 74), Van Dam; Penberthy, Homer (Waters 60); Morley (Holenstein 69), Maddison (Selway 60), Atalifo (Rodman 59), Sexton (c), Beckett (McKern 62), Argyle, Upfield (Bartle 54), Venter.
CORNISH PIRATES: Moyle; Wedlake, Parata, Patterson (Skinner 54), Evans; Cargill, Day (Schwarz 60); Andrew (Keast 55), Cowan-Dickie (Matavesi 51), Gendall (Owlett 36), Freeman (Cutmore 55), Beukeboom (c), Caulfield (McRae 61), Bolwell, Duncan.
REFEREE: Neil Chivers. Assistants: Paul Burton, Peter Brunt
Half Time: 17-3
Man-of-the-match (as chosen by match sponsor Grant Thornton): Harry Morley (Jersey Reds)
Tries: Newey 11, Maddison 23, Marx 78
Conversions: Penberthy 11, 23, 78
Penalties: Penberthy 36, 44, 56
Drop: Penberthy 72
Try: Matavesi 74
Conversion: Cargill 74
Penalty: Cargill 40