The Reds’ stunning opening salvo ended the game as a contest by early in the second quarter, although Doncaster Knights showed spirit in their second half fightback.
Four tries in 22 minutes left the visitors shell-shocked, with a jubilant home crowd celebrating a bonus point earlier than they could have dared to dream of.
A good early catch and pinpoint kick by Leroy Van Dam helped the hosts establish a platform in their opponents’ 22, and the first score came when skipper Jerry Sexton charged down a would-be clearance from scrum-half Tom James and reacted swiftly to sprint to the loose ball and touch down.
Then the Jersey backs got in on the act, with Van Dam crossing after good hands in midfield and James Newey racing on to Mark Best’s grubber. Best had moved into the ‘first receiver’ role on both occasions, and was influential throughout.
When Brett Herron took Best’s pass and burst through a gap for the fourth try, the Knights were on the ropes, their game punctuated by errors that cost them any chance of clawing back points, with numerous handling errors, lineout inaccuracy and a penalty to the corner that went into touch-in-goal. Koch Marx went close in the corner as the half drew to a close, and soon afterwards Herron notched a straightforward penalty.
Stirred into action after half-time, the Knights were far more competitive and succeeded in stringing together numerous phases which culminated in a pinpoint Sam Olver cross-kick which Paul Jarvis caught for the try.
The visitors hoped for some momentum, but found the Reds’ defence in determined mood. The scoreboard remained static until an attacking lineout soared over the heads of the Doncaster forwards but bounced kindly for replacement Charlie Foley, who had the simplest of finishes from close range.
After a slightly subdued start to the second period, the home side recovered their mojo in the closing stages, with Jack Macfarlane finishing a powerful maul in the scoreboard corner and Herron claiming his second as he stretched to take a pass from Will Homer – the replacement scrum-half made a lively impact and had almost set up a try with a 50-metre burst a minute earlier. The visitors had the final word with a last-play try from Rory Pitman, who produced a committed 80-minute display against one of his former clubs.
“We’d prepared well and the intention was to have an emphasis on speed, and the players delivered that exceptionally well,” said Reds Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon. “There was a good balance between the backs and the forwards, and the work that had been put in really paid dividends. The players knew they had under-performed in the last home match against London Scottish and really put that right.”
Knights DoR Clive Griffiths was left bitterly disappointed with his side’s start.
“We made five errors inside 10 minutes and were 12 points down, we didn’t have a mountain to climb it was more like the Pyrenees,” he said. “The boys showed some grit in the second half, but we have some serious work to do.
“The supporters were let down in our last home game, and we didn’t deliver for those who’d made the effort to come to Jersey either – it’s been a difficult period, but we’ve bounced back before and we’ll do so again.”
JERSEY REDS: Van Dam; Marx, Ma’afu, Best (Penberthy 77), Newey; Herron, Howley (Homer 48); Godfrey (Morley 60), Maddison (Macfarlane 59), Atalifo (Rodman 54), Sexton (c) 7, McKern (Beckett 54), Hatherell (Joyce 59), Bartle, Venter.
DONCASTER KNIGHTS: McColl; Jarvis, Clark (Foley 68), Hayes, Wilson; Olver, James (Polataivao 60); Hislop (Beech 65), Hunter (Mayhew 65), Quigley (Sproston 60), Tyrell, Hicks (Challinor 65), Stedman (Jones 62), Calladine (c), Pitman.
REFEREE: Neil Chivers. Assistants: Darryl Chapman, Gareth Holsgrove
Half Time: 29-0
Man-of-the-match (as chosen by match sponsor Praxis IFM): Mark Best (Jersey Reds)
Tries: Sexton 4, Van Dam 8, Newey 15, Herron 22, 78, Macfarlane 74
Conversions: Herron 8, 15, 22, 74
Penalty: Herron 40
Tries: Jarvis 48, Foley 70, Pitman 80
Conversions: Olver 48, 70, 80