For the third game in succession of a new league season, Jersey showed glimpses of exhilarating rugby, mixed with fallibility. Once again it wasn’t a winning combination and left the Reds one score short of victory.
A purple patch in the second quarter, during which time the visitors racked up 24 unanswered points, became a distant memory during a second half in which the Reds failed to score any points, while their hosts roared back to claim their first Championship win in four attempts.
The away team showed some early flashes in attack, both through the backs and forwards, but couldn’t make it count, with a rolling maul making significant ground but then the ball being lost before it could be used. The Exiles got into the game with a number of penalty awards, including one for back-chat, and fly-half Rory Jennings, briefly a Jersey player during a loan spell in January 2016, opened his side’s account from the kicking tee.
Pressure near the Reds’ goal-line eventually led to the Scots increasing their lead after 17 minutes. A maul went close, and then the ball was worked right and Charlie Ingall stepped inside Will Homer to score.
In arrears by 10 points, it was crucial that the visitors scored next, and indeed they did strike – on multiple occasions and with ruthless execution. A series of phases began to really stretch the opposition defence, and eventually Mark Best slid through a precise grubber which Leroy Van Dam touched down in the corner.
Opportunism, footballing skills and raw pace combined for the second Jersey try, which started with a spilled pass by the Exiles as they attacked towards the Reds’ 22. The loose ball was hacked forward to around halfway, and Auguy Slowik was fast enough to outstrip his opponents to reach it and hack on twice more before grounding the ball in goal. Brett Herron struck both conversions pretty well from the same touchline spot, but one drifted across the posts while the other just missed on the opposite side.
The scores may have been level at 10-apiece, but the momentum was all Jersey’s and a rolling maul powered 25 metres to the line for a Nick Selway try, and then Herron used a penalty advantage to send over a cross-kick for Van Dam’s second.
The half-time whistle came as an act of mercy for the punch-drunk hosts, and they used the rest period well, emerging refreshed and ready to get back into the contest. It took less than two minutes for them to do so, with wingers Ingall and Rob Stevenson gaining significant ground and then Jennings emulating his opposite number’s cross-kicking prowess and Joe-Luca Smith catching and scoring. Jennings’ right-footed conversion from the ‘wrong’ touchline was the most impressive of his five shots at goal, all of which found the target.
Jersey hopes rose briefly as Homer fielded a clearance kick near half-way and set off on a mazy run deep into opposition territory which could well have led to a try if the pass to the supporting Apakuki Ma’afu had gone to hand.
As the Scots sought another score, the Reds were reduced to 14 men when Nick Selway was adjudged to have deliberately knocked down the ball as he defended, and dispatched to the sin-bin. Jennings struck a penalty soon afterwards to narrow his side’s deficit to four points, and then great pace from replacement hooker Billy Harding saw him finish an attack started by Smith. It appeared Conor Joyce may have been taken out off the ball during this move, leaving the Reds’ flanker unable to cover, but Jersey protests fell on deaf ears, with no TMO to examine the validity of their claims.
Although the third quarter had been a sobering spell for the Reds, they started the final 20 minutes of the match restored to 15 men and with only one score required to regain the lead. There were opportunities, including two penalty awards deep in Scottish territory as the clock ticked down. Herron could have opted for goal to brings the scores level, but neither kick would have been easy and the draw would have only secured one more point on top of the two the Reds were already holding, so the decision was to kick to the corner in a bid to score a winning try. Twice the maul went to ground, the first time earning a follow-up penalty, but no further punishment, and the second time the hosts were awarded a scrum, enabling them to retain possession for the final moves of the match.
A third successive defeat of the new Greene King IPA Championship season was tough to take for the coaching staff and players of Jersey Reds.
As in their two previous outings, the encounter with London Scottish saw the Reds blow hot and cold, falling short of a winning score at the end.
The end result may have yielded two bonus points for the visitors, but it left them anchored to the foot of the Championship table and desperate to kick-start the season on their long-awaited home debut, when Yorkshire Carnegie come to Stade Santander International this Friday.
‘It was a tough Championship game and credit to London Scottish for winning it,’ said Head Coach Harvey Biljon. ‘We created plenty of opportunities, but whereas we took them in the first half, we couldn’t do so after that.
‘When we take our chances, and start to get a few things to go in our favour, I’m confident results will come, and even in defeat the guys are really motivated and excited to be playing in front of our home crowd against Yorkshire on Friday.’
While pleased to have had the chance to show off his footballing skills in claiming his third try in as many league outings, Reds’ full-back Auguy Slowik admitted he would have given up the score for a Reds’ win.
‘It was disappointing that there were periods where we weren’t quite at the races and our discipline let us down. We backed ourselves to get the win at the end but the roll of the dice didn’t go for us, and we’ll be looking to make a real statement at home next time out.’
Replacement forward Charlie Beckett added: ‘We had real momentum going into half-time and couldn’t maintain that when we restarted. I think we could have won it at the end, and when that last maul went down – let’s say I’d have a different opinion to the referee as to what caused that to happen.’
London Scottish (1-15): Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi, Pete Austin, Richard Palframan, Byron Hodge, Tjiuee Uanivi, James Tyas, Lewis Wynne, Mark Bright (capt); Ed Hoadley, Rory Jennings; Rob Stevenson, Ben Mosses, Richie Vernon, Charlie Ingall, Joe Luca Smith
Replacements: Billy Harding (for Austin, 56 mins), Tom Smallbone (Hobbs-Awoyemi 65), Phil Cringle (Palframan 65), Grayson Hart (Hoadley 66). Not used: Luke Frost, Jacob Perry, Craig Duncan
Jersey Reds (1-15)
Roy Godfrey (capt), Nick Selway (YC 50), Leeroy Atalifo, Jerry Sexton, Dave McKern, Janco Venter, Conor Joyce, Max Argyle; Will Homer, Brett Herron; Leroy Van Dam, Mark Best, Apakuki Ma’afu, Koch Marx; Auguy Slowik.
Replacements: Charlie Maddison (for Argyle, 53 mins), James Newey (Best 57), Argyle (Selway 60), Charlie Beckett (McKern 65), Rory Bartle (Venter 65), Sam Rodman (Atalifo 67), Calum Waters (Marx 71). Not used: Harry Morley
REFEREE: Simon Harding; Assistants: Bill Burton, Simon Adams
Half Time: 10-24
Tries: Ingall 17, Smith 41, Harding 58
Conversions: Jennings 17, 41, 58
Penalties: Jennings 14, 55
Tries: Van Dam 20, 37, Slowik 24, Selway 31
Conversions: Herron 31, 37