Smiles were back on faces and the post-match beer tasted good as the Reds
shrugged off their injury worries and snapped a five-match losing streak at St Peter. The home side racked up seven excellent tries to convincingly see off the Cardiff Blues Select and ignite their 2016/17 B&I Cup campaign.
It was a makeshift Jersey squad who lined up, including Assistant Coach Alex Rae, out of retirement to play in the back row, and second team front-rowers Chris Pople and David Felton on the bench.
The game started after a minute's silence to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan disaster in south Wales, in which 144 people lost their lives, and also to honour two great men of rugby, Dickie Jeeps and Anthony Foley.
A powerful surge by George Eastwell through some weak defence and a more jinking but equally effective run by Nick Haining brought two tries for the hosts in the first quarter. The Blues lost dangerous fly-half Ben Jones to injury, but were able to respond with tries by Owen Lane and Rhun Williams. The first Welsh score came as a Jersey attempt to run the ball out of defence failed, while the second was courtesy of a fine run by winger Alex Webber.
Long passes from Jordan Davies and Rae put prop Jake Armstrong in for a try on the left wing just before half-time and the Reds really turned the screw after the restart. Eastwell went over for his second, and within two minutes came the Reds' fifth - arguably the try of the night. Skipper James Freeman got his side into the Blues' 22 with a storming run, and when the ball was secured at the ruck, slick handling by Joel Dudley, Brendan Cope, Regan King and Rae put Sam Katz over in the corner.
Jersey finished with three scrum-halves on the field, one of whom, Kieran Hardy, crossed for a brace of tries against his fellow countrymen to complete the scoring. The first was set up by Davies, King and Katz, while for the second Uili Kolo'ofa'i showed hands as deft as any back in midfield and King fed Hardy for the score. Brendan Cope maintained a perfect record, slotting seven conversions from a range of angles.
There were big cheers as both Pople and Felton were introduced in the closing stages, and both played their part in some solid set pieces to close out the match.
Head Coach Harvey Biljon was proud and emotional after the match.
"I told people not to write us off, and the pride and enthusiasm of the players showed real character," Biljon said. "We had a great balance of forwards and backs, and the lineouts were working well, so credit to Alex Rae for that and for playing the full 80 minutes. It was great to hear the boards being banged and the crowd getting behind the team
Blues Coach Richard Hodges looked back on a tough lesson for his young side.
"We capitulated in defence at the start of the second half and you won't survive at this level playing like that," he said. "We had a young side, with 17- and 18-year-olds and some making their senior debuts, and they'll need to learn from this before we play Ulster in December."
JERSEY REDS: Katz; Cuthbert (Hardy 32), King, Eastwell (Fisilau 67), Davies; Cope, Dudley; Woolmore (Thomas 54), Macfarlane (Felton 72), Armstrong (Pople 66), Voss, McKern, Rae, Freeman (c) (Argyle 50), Haining (Kolo'ofa'i 50).
CARDIFF BLUES SELECT: Williams R; Lane, Summerhill, Williams D (Lewis 42), Webber; Jones (Hall 18), Hale (Lucas 74); Thyer (Howe 60), Belcher (Tomlinson 60), Assirratti (Leung 53), Murphy, Dolan (c), Lewis-Hughes, Crocker, Sheekey (Barnes 60).
REFEREE: Ben Blain (RFU); Assistants: Jonathan Healey and Bill Burton
Man-of-the-match, as chosen by match sponsor Cazenove: George Eastwell (Jersey)
Half Time: 21-12
Tries: Eastwell 11, 42, Haining 19, Armstrong 37, Katz 44, Hardy 63, 67
Conversions: Cope 11,19, 37, 42, 44, 63, 67
Tries: Lane 21, Williams D 30
Con: Hall 30
27 Jan 2023
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