The Reds returned to winning ways with a hard-fought win at the Athletic Ground against London Scottish. The Reds are assured of a home quarter-final, but lost out on top spot in pool 2 to Ealing, who achieved a bonus point win over Richmond on their home patch.
The Reds went into the game looking to maintain a narrow advantage over Ealing in pool 2, in order to achieve the best possible ranking going into the knock-out stages of the inaugural Championship Cup. The Reds were also anxious to get back to winning ways after a 10-game winning run came to an end when Ealing won 16-20 at Stade Santander International the previous weekend.
The first half was a largely frustrating affair for the Reds who had plentiful possession and territory, but couldn’t translate these factors into points on the board.
A combination of lost ball at lineouts and in open play, and some cussed Scottish defence, meant the Reds were scoreless for almost the whole half, and in fact it was the Scots who went ahead. Fly-half Rory Jennings, briefly a Red while on loan from Bath a couple of seasons back, landed penalty attempts after eight and 36 minutes. These kicks looked likely to give his side an interval lead, but with the last play a Red maul powered over the line with Jack Macfarlane claiming the try and Brett Herron giving his side the lead (6-7) as the whistle sounded.
The visitors’ lead didn’t last for long, with Jennings splitting the uprights soon after the restart, but then the Reds struck again with a fine move from a scrum near half-way. Replacement Janco Venter picked up and raced forward before sending a perfectly-timed pass to Will Homer who showed real pace as he sprinted to the line. Herron couldn’t land the conversion, but did take a penalty chance soon afterwards to put his side 9-15 ahead.
There were no more points scored in the final quarter, in spite of the Scots losing Theo Vukasinovic to the sin-bin after the lock took out Venter from the restart. The Reds had their chances, but in the end were grateful to keep hold of their lead as the hosts piled on the pressure in the closing stages. The Jersey defence held firm and the whistle went to signal the Reds’ fifth win in six pool matches.
Ealing’s 33-0 win over Richmond included five tries- enough to put the Londoners just ahead of the Reds for top spot in pool 2. With London Irish topping pool 3 in spite of a 19-7 defeat at the Pirates, and Yorkshire Carnegie edging Coventry 15-5 to win the remaining pool, the home quarter finalists, ranked 1-4, are: Ealing, Irish, Carnegie and the Reds.
The away quarter-finalists will be Pirates, Coventry, Bedford and Nottingham, but the quarter-final pairings are yet to be confirmed, with the cup regulations indicating that teams from the same pool would not be paired together in the last eight. The QF ties are expected to be confirmed by the Organising Committee during the week commencing December 17th.
LONDON SCOTTISH: Lyle; Obatoyinbo, Beattie (Barton 28), Bird-Tulloch, Stevenson; Jennings, Hart; Brodley (Harris 57), Harding (Austin 70), Palframan (Litchfield 39), Vukasinovic (YC 61), Uanivi (Hodge 75), Tyas, Eliet (Wynne 57), Bright (capt).
Not used: Hoadley
JERSEY REDS: Slowik; Stapley, Ma’afu, Best, Van Dam; Herron, Homer (Mudariki); Godfrey (Morley 58), Macfarlane (Maddison 5-10, 43), Atalifo (Alexis 74), Sexton (capt), Beckett (McKern 69), Bartle, Argyle, Upfield (Venter 43).
Not used: Mudariki, Newey
REFEREE: Dean Richards. Assistants: Ian Bibey, Fergus Kirby
Half Time: 6-7
Penalties: Jennings 8, 36, 43
Try: Macfarlane 40, Homer 52
Conversion: Herron 40
Penalties: Herron 60