The Reds completed a high-scoring month that saw them notch 25 tries in just three games with an entertaining friendly outing against Scottish visitors Ayrshire Bulls.
Though there were periods when they were outgunned, the Bulls played a full part in the match and could take some satisfaction from limiting their full-time opponents to smaller winning margins than were achieved in two previous outings against Nottingham and Coventry.
In front of a disappointing crowd of just over 500 spectators, the Reds made a fast start as Ryan Olowofela raced down the right flank to the line within two minutes, and then showed their strength as TJ Harris went over from a maul.
A fine run out of defence by early replacement Ratu Tagive set up a try for the visitors by Bobby Beattie, but Olowofela grabbed his second after good approach work by Jack Roberts.
Sam Leeming and Tom Pittman were alternating in the fly-half role for the Reds and orchestrating some potent attacking. Both were involved in their side’s fourth try as they created a gap for Scott Van Breda, and then Roberts fed Harry Simmons for number five.
A knock for Simmons in the act of scoring saw the winger replaced and an opportunity for Scott McClurg to impress from the bench, five seasons after making two B&I Cup appearances for the 1st XV.
McClurg looked at home once he settled into the game, and there were also some promising touches from another Jersey Athletic player when teenage fly-half George Daniels entered the fray during the final quarter. There was also a second-half debut for prop Monty Weatherby, who has been on trial from Sandbach RUFC in Cheshire in recent weeks.
The Reds switched off at the end of the first half, enabling Bulls’ scrum-half Cam Jones to sprint through for his side’s second try.
Both sides’ defences were subject to some stern tests at times, with a much-changed home side forced onto the back foot in the early stages of the second half, but able to withstand a period of pressure.
A turnover from skipper Tim Grey helped the Reds raise the siege, with McClurg racing 50 metres and finding Will Lane in support before the attack broke down. Then the rolling maul was utilised again, firstly unsuccessfully as Guy Thompson lost the ball as he crossed the line, but then replacement Jack Macfarlane claimed a try within two minutes of coming on for his first action since the league game against Bedford in September.
With the Bulls helped by having a strong easterly breeze at their backs, the second half was a close affair, eventually won 12-10 by the home side. Rhodri Tanner went over from a maul and Joe Knight in open play for the Scots, while Pittman ran a strong diagonal line behind his forwards to claim the final Jersey try in the Pavilion corner.
Assistant Coach Tom Williams was pleased to see his side make the most of the additional fixture, which helped the Reds fill the gap between their league and cup campaigns, while serving as a warm-up for the semi-professional Scottish side ahead of their forthcoming Super6 campaign.
Williams said: "It was a very worthwhile outing against a good side – we wanted to keep up the momentum from the Coventry and Nottingham games and take this into the cup, so I was happy to see us do that.
"It was great to see Scott McClurg and George Daniels out there, as well as opportunities for Will Lane and Monty Weatherby, and we’ll take a lot out of the game."
After a weekend off, the Reds will open their Championship Cup campaign with a first-leg tie against London Scottish at Stade Santander on Saturday 9 April, with a later kick-off at 5pm to accommodate the visitors’ travel plans.
Pictures: Jacquie Ranieri
JERSEY REDS (1-15): Huw Owen (Monty Weatherby h-t), TJ Harris (Jack Macfarlane 54), Luke Yendle (Roy Godfrey 62), Tom Everard (Sean O’Connor 23-35), Alex Humfrey, Tim Grey (capt), Wes White, Guy Thompson; Will Lane (James Mitchell 67), Sam Leeming; Ryan Olowofela, Tom Pittman, Jack Roberts (George Daniels 64), Harry Simmons (Scott McClurg 33); Scott Van Breda.
Unused replacement: Lewis Wynne
AYRSHIRE BULLS (1-15): Andrew Nimmo, Alex McGuire, Michael Scott, Ewan Hamilton-Bulger, Ed Bloodworth, Rory Jackson, Joe Knight, Blair MacPherson (capt); Cam Jones, Matt Minogue; Aaron Tait, Tom Jordan, Bobby Beattie, Elias Caven; Liam McNamara.
Rolling replacements: Rhodri Tanner, Ali Rogers, Calvin Henderson, Hamish Bain, Tim Brown, Matt Donaldson, Thomas Glendinning, Tom Lanni, Ratu Tagive, Lewis McNamara.
REFEREE: Hamish Grant. Assistants: Lionel Spooner, Bill Burton
Half Time: 31-14
Tries: Olowofela 2, 18 Harris 11, Van Breda 28, Simmons 31, Macfarlane 56, Pittman 70
Conversions: Leeming 11, 18, 28, 56
Tries: Beattie 15, Jones 39, Tanner 61, Knight 76
Conversions: Minogue 15, 40
03 Feb 2023
Home side look to improve poor record over London rivals