The forward power of the visiting Jersey Reds was at the heart of a gritty victory in wet and cold conditions at Lady Bay.
The Reds had trailed 11-0 early in the match but came back to gain a 11-17 half-time lead, and were able to hold on during the second period, with a late try from replacement Jake Armstrong making the difference and setting up the seventh away win in 10 stagings of this Championship encounter.
Although Jersey had the first attack after winning an early penalty and resulting lineout ball on the hosts' 22, but then a Gary Graham pass was intercepted by Greene-and-Whites flanker Ben Morris. Although he was chased by two Jersey backs, George Watkins and Kieran Hardy, the back row man showed great pace to stay clear in a 75-metre burst downfield to the try-line.
Although Lawrence Rayner missed the conversion, he had an opportunity soon afterwards from a scrum penalty which he landed to make it 8-0. By this stage the Reds had already been forced to make a change, with Sam Katz coming on for Ross Adair who had twinged a hamstring.
Another early penalty, this time for handling on the floor, allowed Rayner to stretch his side's lead to 11-0.
The visitors managed to get back into the game via a scrum penalty near half-way that was launched into Nottingham's 22 by Callum Sheedy, who soon afterwards kicked another penalty - this time for offside - closer to the try-line. Joe Buckle found Pierce Phillips and the Reds' pack executed a perfect drive, with Buckle taking the ball at the back to score. Katz converted.
The Reds began to exert some pressure and after a superb break by Hardy a desperate late tackle by Calum Hall brought a yellow card to the winger for killing the ball. The Reds had squandered an overlap just beforehand but got their second try from the penalty and another well-worked lineout drive, with Freeman finishing it and Katz adding another two points.
The home side were battling to stay in the game with only 14 men and when they conceded another penalty, Katz elected to go for goal with what turned out to be the last kick of the half. The posts were bisected and the Reds had recovered from 11-0 to 11-17 at the break.
The second half began with increasingly heavy rain and an early switch for the Reds with Gary Graham forced off and Max Argyle entering the fray. The first opportunity came when Jersey's front row won another scrum penalty but Sheedy was unable to find touch.
A penalty in front of the posts gave Rayner a straightforward chance at goal, which he took to narrow the margin to three points. The fly-half had another kickable opportunity soon afterwards, but when he kicked to touch inside the Reds 22 the ball was eventually turned over.
After a sticky period, the Reds were able to regain some control, again with their pack gaining ascendancy in the conditions. Two penalties brought a warning to the home side and eventually replacement Armstrong piled over, with Katz adding the conversion to give his side a 10-point lead.
Having finally got daylight between the sides, the Reds were looking to control the closing stages but were worried by a Veenendaal charge through the middle and then a cross-kick by replacement Lyons to the corner where Hall was able to field the ball and go over.
Lyons couldn't convert but there was nevertheless time for the hosts to gain a late win in the same way as they'd achieved at St Peter in September. However the Reds were determined not to let it slip and held on until the whistle blew, which meant Harvey Biljon's side were able to move up to sixth in the Championship table.
NOTTINGHAM: Stephenson; Williams, Evans, Hakalo, Hall (YC 33); Rayner (Lyons 75), McConnell (Veenendaal 50); Davies (Morley 75), Harris, (Stevens 57), Hooper, Freeman, Eames (Poullet 68), Morris, Everard (c) (Langley 34), Buckley. Replacements (not used): Peck
JERSEY REDS: Cuthbert; Watkins, Ma’afu, Davies, Adair (Katz 4); Sheedy, Hardy (Dudley 76); McCarthy (Woolmore 62), Buckle (Macfarlane 72), Kerrod (Armstrong 67), Phillips (c), McKern, Freeman, Graham (Argyle 43), Haining (Kolo'ofa'i 61).
REFEREE: Tim Wigglesworth (RFU); Assistants: Steve Lee, Wayne Falla
Half Time: 11-17
Tries: Morris 3, Hall 77
Penalties: Rayner 8, 14, 40
Tries: Buckle 21, Freeman 35, Armstrong 74
Conversions: Katz 21, 35, 74
Penalties: Katz 40
31 Mar 2023
Five games remain to define Championship season