On a fresh, perfectly dry afternoon, it was Jersey who started the brighter against hosts London Irish.
The mood in the camp leading up to the game was positive, and this translated onto the pitch almost immediately as new signing Guy Armitage crossed for the first try of the match after only 3 minutes. Irish had been pressing in our half, but good work at the breakdown yielded a penalty to Jersey. Sami Fisilau was first to react, taking a quick ‘tap and go’ to break from the edge of our 22 and cross into their half before releasing Armitage down the left wing. Katz converted from the touchline, and it was the perfect start for the visitors.
Irish were certainly showing their strength, and played much of the first half in our own territory, but the Jersey defence did enough to frustrate and keep them at bay, with particularly good work at the breakdown. It was half an hour before the hosts registered their first points when Tommy Bell stroked over a penalty to reduce the arrears.
Bell, featured on the front of the match day programme as ‘kicking king’ duly passed the milestone of 100 points scored for the season, and was instrumental in many of Irish’s best moments, particularly with his accuracy when kicking the ball from hand. A perfectly placed penalty to the corner that set the platform for Irish to score their first try of the afternoon, albeit at the third attempt following stoic defence by the Reds that incurred a yellow card for Simon Kerrod. Bell added the extras, and the hosts were in the lead.
Katz struck a wonderful penalty from inside our own half to level the scores, and then in injury time it was that man Bell who again put Irish back in the danger zone in the corner, and with a man advantage they crossed for their second converted try.
Jersey could have counted themselves a bit unlucky to be behind at the break, but a sublime 5 minutes of play after the restart saw Irish stamp their authority on the tie with 2 more rapid tries.
The Reds weren’t about to lie down, and to their credit kept battling away to get in the right areas. First there was a ‘catch and drive’ try for Marc Thomas. This came from a penalty as the Reds were pressing the Irish line. The ball was spun wide and a deliberate knock on brought a yellow card for Benjamin Ransom that prevented a certain try scoring pass. No penalty try was awarded, but fortunately the Reds were able to capitalise on their position in the corner, and again Katz converted from out wide to bring the scores to 29-17.
A Bell penalty extended the Irish lead before George Watkins scored a brilliant try entirely of his own making. The Irish were looking to break from their own 22, and an audacious cross kick clearance targeted at their left wing was intercepted by Watkins who timed his running jump perfectly before juggling the ball and forcing his way past two defenders to score and again close the gap – 32-22.
Irish notched their 5th try that effectively ended the game, scored by captain David Paice after a period of sustained pressure and Bell converted. Still in the ascendency, Bell then added a drop goal to take the tally to 42-22.
Finally in the 71st minute Jersey got their deserved 4th ‘bonus point’ try. Watkins took the ball on the edge of his own 22 and steamed up field before a kick and chase. Irish scrabbled back and took the ball over their own line to give Jersey had a 5m scrum. Two resets, one after a penalty saw Jersey force their opponents backwards providing the platform for Nick Haining to pick up and charge over.
After the game Head Coach Harvey Biljon was complimentary about Guy Armitage. “He did really well to slot in having only arrived on Thursday, and only had the benefit of one training session with the lads.”
Reflecting on the result he added, “This is a massive try bonus point for us. Not many sides will come here and get one of those against the league leaders”.
Jersey Reds return to action next Saturday at home against Doncaster Knights who suffered a surprise home defeat against Cornish Pirates. Kick off is at the slightly earlier time of 2.30pm, and with a couple more players expected back from injury Biljon will hope that we can make the home advantage pay.
15 Greig Tonks, 14 Joe Cokanasiga (Fergus Mulchrone, 58), 13 Tom Fowlie, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Ben Ransom, 10 Tommy Bell, 9 Scott Steele (Brendan McKibbin, 61), 1 Tom Court (Harry Elrington, 62), 2 David Paice (c) (Gerard Ellis, 62), 3 Richard Palframan (Ben Franks, 51), 4 Will Lloyd, 5 Jerry Sexton (Sebastian De Chaves, 60), 6 Max Northcote Green (Mike Coman, 3), 7 Blair Cowan, 8 Senitiki Nayalo
Replacements: 16 Gerard Ellis, 17 Harry Elrington, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Sebastian De Chaves, 20 Mike Coman, 21 Brendan McKibbin, 22 Fergus Mulchrone
15 Sam Katz, 14 George Watkins, 13 Guy Armitage, 12 Jordan Davies, 11 Conor Dolan, 10 James McKinney, 9 Sam Fisilau (Joel Dudley, 73), 1 Marc Thomas (Sean McCarthy, 63), 2 Joe Buckle (Jack Macfarlane, 57), 3 Simon Kerrod (Mark Tampin, 59), 4 Nick Campbell (James Doyle, 65), 5 James Voss (Uili Kolo’ofa’i, 62), 6 James Freeman (c), 7 Gary Graham (Max Argyle, 50), 8 Nick Haining
Replacements: 16 Jack Macfarlane, 17 Sean McCarthy, 18 Mark Tampin, 19 Uili Kolo’ofa’i, 20 Max Argyle, 21 Joe Dudley, 22 James Doyle
Referee: John Meredith
Half time: 17-10
Tries: Paice (2), Palframan, Ransom, Fowlie
Cons: Bell (4)
Pens: Bell (2)
Tries: Armitage, Thomas, Watkins, Haining
Cons: Katz (3)