On a beautiful, sunny afternoon, but with a biting breeze, Jersey held on to triumph over Doncaster Knights to celebrate their 100th appearance in the Championship.
A blistering opening 20 minutes by the hosts saw the Reds sieze control of the game, but it certainly wasn’t to be all one way traffic.
Sam Katz was first on to the score sheet with a penalty. The Reds could have counted themselves a bit unlucky with this as the referee blew his decision when the pack were in possession and steaming towards the Knights’ try line following a good line out, but 3 points it was.
George Watkins added to this with the first of his two tries on 11 minutes when he collected a high ball just short of the half way line, and then cut his way through a rather static Doncaster defence for what was undoubtedly the try of the game. Katz converted and Jersey were 10-0 to the good.
Domination in the set piece brought the second score from a catch and drive that was finished off by captain James Freeman. Katz missed the conversion, but at 17-0 after 15 minutes there were no complaints.
Next up it was Nick Haining who turned the ball over on the Doncaster’s 10m line as they were looking to attack from their own half, and he easily powered away to score to the delight of the home faithful. The bonus point 4th try soon followed as Watkins added his second, and it was starting to look a bit too easy.
The Knights replied with a well-worked converted try of their own before half time as quick hands made an overlap for Tyson Lewis who needed no second chance as he darted down the left wing to score.
Katz then added another penalty just before the break, and at 32-7 the Reds were unquestionably in the driving seat.
The second half was a complete turn around, and Doncaster playing down the slope took it to their hosts from the kick off. As much as they pressed though, Jersey seemed to have the answers, and aside from an exchange of penalties in the first 10 minutes of the half the Reds were still numercially in control.
Doncaster were to then score three unaswered tries. Firstly on the hour when, following a period of sustained pressure it was Glen Young credited with the score in amongst a mele of players who crashed over. After 70 mins WillGriff John added the third and finally, deep into stoppage time Young scored his second of the afternoon and the Knights’ fourth.
The homeside were certainly unlucky to lose their captain James Freeman to injury earlier in the second half that did unsettle the side, and were also reduced to 14 men as Uili Kolo’ofa’i picked up a yellow card whilst desperately defending on 69 minutes, but credit has to go to the tenacity of the visitors who never gave up.
The last couple of minutes were tense, but to the delight of those that braved the cold, Jersey held on for a much needed 5 point win.
A relieved Harvey Biljon said after the game, “What a win! 5 points is without doubt the most important thing”.
When questioned about the second half he replied, “It was difficult, and losing Freeman so early on certainly didn’t help, but we stuck to task, dug in and held on for the result. We definitely deserved the victory, but it is still a bit diappointing that moments of ill-discipline let Donny back into it for their 2 bonus points”.
15 Sam Katz, 14 George Watkins, 13 Jordan Davies (Kieran Hardy, 38), 12 Apakuki Ma’afu 11 Jack Cuthbert, 10 James McKinney, 9 Sam Fisilau, 1 Marc Thomas (Sean McCarthy, 61), 2 Joe Buckle (Jack Macfarlane, 73), 3 Simon Kerrod (Mark Tampin, 67), 4 Nick Campbell, 5 Uili Kolo’ofa’i, 6 James Freeman (c) (Max Argyle, 49), 7 Gary Graham, 8 Nick Haining (Dave McKern, 61)
Replacements: 16 Jack Macfarlane, 17 Sean McCarthy, 18 Mark Tampin, 19 Dave McKern, 20 Max Argyle, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Joel Dudley
15 Sean Scanlon (Sam Edgerley, 40), 14 Paul Jarvis, 13 Dougie Flockhart, 12 Lloyd Hayes, 11 Tyson Lewis, 10 Declan Cusack (Simon Humberstone, 40), 9 Michael Heaney (Ben White, 40), 1 Robin Hislop (Richard List, 56) (Joe Sproston 73), 2 Ben Hunter (Jack Bergmans, 68), 3 WillGriff John, 4 Matt Challinor, 5 Dave Nolan (Huw Taylor, 56), 6 Glen Young, 7 Harrison Orr, 8 Jarad Williams
Replacements: 16 Richard List, 17 Jack Bergmans, 18 Joe Sproston, 19 Huw Taylor, 20 Ben White, 21 Simon Humberstone, 22 Sam Edgerley
Referee: Tom Foley
Half time: 32-7
Man of the match (as chosen by Rathbones): George Watkins
Tries: Watkins (2), Freeman, Haining
Cons: Katz (3)
Pens: Katz (3)
Tries: Lewis, Young (2), John
Cons: Flockhart (3)