IT may have lacked some of the drama of previous encounters between the sides, but there were few dull moments in the latest instalment of Jersey Reds against Bedford Blues.
The two sides served up a ten-try feast on a warm early autumn afternoon at Stade Santander, with the home side claiming six of the tries and – eventually – maximum points for their win.
Previous encounters between the clubs included Jersey’s ‘Great Escape’ win at Goldington Road in 2014, when the Reds hauled themselves out of the relegation zone on the last day of the season, and a last-gasp try for the Blues to win 39-37 on Boxing Day 2016. Saturday’s game looked as if it could be just as hard on the finger nails until the Reds raised their game and settled the debate during the final quarter.
Playing their first league match of 2021/22 after a bye on the opening weekend, the Blues began combatively until the Reds showed their attacking potential after 12 minutes.
The ball was worked wide through the midfield where Lewis Wynne and Guy Thompson were supplementing the back-line. From well inside their own half the back row duo made 50 metres between them before the ball was quickly recycled and Dan Barnes squeezed through the remnants of the opposition defence to touch down.
There were several reminders of Bedford’s attacking threat from deep, with ex-Red Rich Lane a constant threat from full-back. Pat Tapley had already gone close twice when Lane saw a gap near halfway and put the wing in for a 40-metre sprint to the line for the equalising score.
The visitors briefly looked capable of taking the lead, but were repelled through some strong Jersey defence before being hit by a devastating three-try burst from the Reds.
A penalty and a superb touch-finder from James Mitchell created an opportunity for an attacking lineout, and when the resulting maul was brought down, referee Mike Hudson didn’t hesitate to award a penalty try and order Blues’ number 8 Oli Stedman to the sin-bin.
Ryan Olowofela got in on the act a few minutes later after good approach work from Harry Simmons and Will Brown before the Jersey pack struck again. This time prop Oisin Heffernan was shown yellow for another maul offence, and from the next play Eoghan Clarke steered the Jersey maul across the line for the bonus-point try.
The Reds were suddenly 26-7 ahead and maintained this scoreline until the break, in spite of a scare when Brendan Owen tried to attack from deep, his long cross-field pass went astray and Jack Roberts felt compelled to commit a cynical block on Tapley for which the Jersey player was punished with a yellow card. Macauley Cook won a key breakdown penalty as Bedford pressed for a try and the half-time whistle blew.
Both sides began the second half with 14 men, but the visitors were restored to their full quota first, and took advantage of Roberts’ continued absence to claim their second try. Stedman started the move from an advancing scrum and then Lane fed Matt Worley to cross in the airport corner.
Within a couple of minutes the margin was down to five as Tapley again went close and Stedman followed up to score, with Will Maisey adding a third conversion from as many attempts.
The home side reacted in the best possible way to the rapid concession of 14 points, knuckling down and regaining control of the match. Strong work at the breakdown forced the Blues into further penalty concessions, and twice this led to rolling mauls powering over the try-line, with Clarke claiming the first and Zak Farrance the other.
Although they did claim a bonus point score via Jack Hughes from a maul, converted by Maisey, Bedford’s spirit was finally broken, and there was a chance for the Reds to match the 47-point haul of the opening weekend when replacement prop Corrie Barrett was shown his side’s third yellow card in the dying stages. On this occasion the Jersey pack couldn’t work a seventh try, although there was a late cheer for home supporters as Harry Doolan charged on for a brief cameo in his competitive debut for the Reds.
Pic by Jacquie Ranieri
JERSEY REDS (15-9, 1-8): Scott Van Breda; Ryan Olowofela (Jordan Holgate 77), Jack Roberts (YC 38), Dan Barnes, Will Brown; Brendan Owen, James Mitchell (James Elliott 67); James Flynn (Roy Godfrey 64), Eoghan Clarke (Harry Doolan 79), Ciaran Parker (Luke Yendle 64), Sean O’Connor (Zak Farrance 47), Macauley Cook, Max Argyle (Alex Humfrey 57), Lewis Wynne (capt) (Wesley White 68), Guy Thompson.
BEDFORD BLUES (15-9, 1-8): Rich Lane (capt); Matt Worley, James Elliott, Ethan Grayson (Louis Grimoldby 57), Pat Tapley (Andre Robson 71); Will Maisey, Alex Day (Connor Tupai 57); Emmanuel Iyogun (Josh Pieterse 62), Will Biggs (Jack Hughes h-t), Oisin Heffernan (YC 34) (Corrie Barrett 64 – YC 77), Luke Frost, Alex Woolford (Robin Williams 62), Bailey Ransom, Joe Atkinson, Oli Stedman (YC 28) (Tui Uru 64).
REFEREE: Mike Hudson. Assistants: Michael Woods, Peter Brunt
Half Time: 26-7
Tries: Barnes 13, Penalty Try 27, Olowofela 30, Clarke 35, 61, Farrance 71
Conversions: Mitchell 13, 35, 61, Owen 71
Tries: Tapley 23, Worley 48, Stedman 51, Hughes 66
Conversions: Maisey 23, 48, 51, 66