The Reds maintained their unbeaten record so far this year, as well as the winning run on home turf across the 2022/23 season, but not before being given a scare by their visitors from Gloucestershire.
After the home side claimed three early tries to leave supporters wondering if they could match the 11 racked up against Caldy two weeks earlier, Hartpury University roared back into contention to trail by just two points at half-time.
Visiting fly-half Tommy Mathews gave the visitors the lead with an early penalty before Tomi Lewis claimed the first try from an assist from fellow wing Ben Woollett, and then another as his forwards trucked the ball up and Adam Nicol's dummy run allowed James Elliott to flick a sublime pass behind his back to the motoring Welsh wing.
The Reds’ maul achieved mixed results across the afternoon, but did create a try for Sean O’Connor that made it 19-3 with just 16 minutes on the clock – this followed a storming run upfield by hooker Eoghan Clarke that prompted one of the largest roars of the day from home supporters.
The usually tight Jersey defensive wall was breached three times in the second quarter. Flanker Sam Lewis stretched over from a breakdown and Jack Bates was twice worked into space by team-mates – skipper Joe Howard and full-back Noah Heward the most prominent – and finished clinically.
The Reds had their bonus point before the break thanks to another Woollett assist for Lewis, this time via a grubber kick, but the visitors were just a missed conversion away from parity at the break, although they surprisingly chose to kick the ball out to end the half when in possession near halfway.
Perhaps the crucial score of the match was the one immediately after the resumption, which again saw Woollett link with Lewis, who was brought down just short. It seemed the ball had fallen to a defender but it went loose and Brendan Owen pounced to score.
Thereafter the Reds were able to exert greater control, although continued to turn down kickable penalties in favour of attacking lineouts that didn’t yield points. The final try came when Woollett set Macauley Cook free on the right wing and then collected a return pass to score.
Hartpury retained hopes of at least one bonus point but were denied by solid home defence, the result leaving them with just a third defeat in their last 10 league games.
Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon was pleased by the second-half shut-out achieved by his players.
“I think there was a point where we may have thought the game was won, and we spoke at half-time about the need to finish the job,” he said. “Nilling them in the second half, and scoring some nice tries in front of our home supporters – I’m pretty pleased with that.”
Biljon said he was pleased to see players like Alun Lawrence, Max Argyle and Jordan Holgate showing up well after injury lay-offs, setting up what he said would be a tricky selection debate for the coming weeks, starting with Saturday’s trip to Richmond.
Picture by Jacquie Ranieri
JERSEY REDS: Owen; Woolett, McHenry, Barnes (Holgate 60), Lewis (Brown 55); Bennett, Elliott (Mitchell 60); Owen (Grahamslaw 55), Clarke (Hadfield h-t), Nicol (Longwell 55), O’Connor (Dun 52), Cook, Grey (Argyle 57), Wynne (capt), Lawrence.
HARTPURY: Heward; Bates, Reeves (Holliday 70), Ascherl, Denty (McNab 61); Mathews, Jones (Randell 66); Wrafter (Benz Salomon 66), Tanner (Stratford 62), Rodman (Walsh 70), Davies (Tull 70), Glynn, Lewis, Short (Robinson 55), Howard (capt).
REFEREE: Hamish Grant. Assistants: Jonathan Cook, Ian Bibey
Half Time: 24-22
Tries: Lewis 7, 11, 32, O’Connor 16, Owen B 41, Woollett 64
Conversions: Bennett 11, 16, 41
Tries: Lewis 20, Bates 24, 37
Conversions: Mathews 20, 24
Penalty: Mathews 3
18 May 2023
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