The Reds’ 2019-20 league campaign got off to the best possible start, with a four try win over the much fancied Coventry Rugby at the Stade Santander International.
Coventry were fastest out of the blocks, moving the ball quickly, but Jersey’s defence held firm, as they would do for the majority of the game.
A knock on – on halfway, by Coventry was to prove costly, as after a big shove at the scrum, Jersey moved the ball left to right through several pairs of hands before Greg Dyer went over. Adding the conversion to his try, Jersey with their first real opportunity were 7-0 up.
The Reds scrum was firing early and forcing Cov’ into conceding several technical penalties. The heavy drizzle was causing problems for both sides, and after several bobbly passes, a Dyer kick to the corner nearly resulted in a second quick-fire Jersey try, but the Cov’ full-back gratefully got there just before two red shirts. The resultant maul went close again, but the visitors were able to push the red machine into touch.
Cov’ slowly came into the game and began to show why they have been tipped by many to challenge for the top four, but with some huge Jersey defence, and the greasy ball, possession was spilled several times when in good positions. One of these big hits accounted for TJ Harris who was forced off for a TIA, joining Jake Upfield who had been sin-binned for foul play a moment earlier.
Jersey looked the more likely as the half wore on, but the walking wounded told a tale of attrition early on. Another big hit on halfway caused the Cov’ centre to spill the ball, surrounded by Reds players. The ball was fly-hacked on by Slowik and he won the footrace to kick on for a second time, with the ball breaking kindly for Dyer to go over for his and Jersey’s second of the day. The conversion was wide, but a healthy 12-0 lead would prove hard to close.
Almost immediately from the kick off, an infringement from Jersey gave Jennings the chance to get Cov’ on the board with a penalty which he duly took, and once again as the half drew to a close, 12-6.
The second half started much like the first, with Cov’ on the front foot, and another infringement gave Jennings the chance for his third penalty of the day. All of a sudden Jerseys healthy lead was down to just three points.
The Reds responded well, and after a huge knock on in the tackle by a Cov player, Jersey were able to kick to the corner. After the first maul was (illegally) halted, the second proved unstoppable as the Reds’ forwards drove hard allowing Nic Dolly to burrow over for the third try of the day. Dyer was again unable to extend the lead as his conversion from out wide clipped the post and came out, 17-9.
A lineout overthrow caused the home side more problems, and in winning the resultant penalty, Jennings again struck, this time from halfway, reducing the arrears to 17-12. Jersey had the chance to slot a penalty of their own, especially when some Coventry backchat brought Brendan Cope 10 metres closer, but the kick was agonisingly wide. That seemed to be a big blow moments later as after a bit of kick tennis, Mark Best became the second Reds player to take a 10 min break for failing to roll away. Jennings kicking his fifth of the afternoon and the lead was down to two. Coventry tried to move the Jersey pack around in an attempt to create the space with the extra man, and the situation became desperate when Auguy Slowik was sin-binned, leaving the Reds with just 13 men with 10 minutes still to play. This time Jennings scuffed the ball horribly, possibly his easiest kick of the day, which allowed the Reds to clear the ball and get a moments respite.
The home crowd were certainly doing their best to rally the team, and every decision, especially a crucial scrum penalty was roared on. Somewhat surprisingly, and very bravely, the 13 men decided to kick to the corner rather than take the three points, and a text book catch and drive saw former England U-20 Nic Dolly appear from the pile with his second try and the bonus point.
Dyer was unable to add the extras from the touchline, which meant that Coventry were still able to salvage a draw if they were able to score a try and a conversion, and with the last play of the match, a catch and drive of their own saw them over the line, but incredibly Jersey held them up and the Reds had a try bonus point win to start the season.
Pic courtesy Oliver Pinel
15. Auguy Slowik 14. Tom Williams (Cope 44) 13. George Spencer 12. Mark Best 11. Leroy Van Dam 10. Greg Dyer 9. Luc Jones (Homer 59) 1. Roy Godfrey (Wayland 78) 2. TJ Harris (Dolly 21) 3. Alec Clarey (Alexis 78) 4. Kyle Hatherell (Beckett 63) 5. Rory Bartle 6. Conor Joyce 7. Josh Bainbridge (capt) 8. Jake Upfield (Argyle 59)
16. Nic Dolly 17. James Wayland 18. Zei Alexis 19. Charlie Beckett 20. Max Argyle 21. Will Homer 22. Brendan Cope 23. James Newey
Stokes, Knox, Stevens, Owen, Trimble, Jennings, Kessell, Trinder, Dawidiuk, Denmam, Dacres, Woolford, Nayalo, Wallace, Burrows
Tolmie, Gibbons, Boulton, Russell, Ram, White, Maisey, Peters
Referee: Mathew Turvey.
Assistants: Alexander Thomas, Simon Park
Half Time: 12-6
Full Time: 22-15
Man of the Match: Greg Dyer
Yellow Cards: Upfield, Best, Slowik
Try: Dyer,(2) 6, 29. Dolly (2) 46, 76
Conversion: Dyer 6
Penalty: Jennings (5) 31, 38, 41, 51, 60