Jersey Reds claimed a ninth league win in a row, overcoming a powerful Nottingham outfit to move – temporarily at least – to the top of the Championship ahead of leaders Ealing playing their match on Saturday.
After the Reds’ backs claimed all six tries in the home win against Richmond six days earlier, this time it was the forwards who were doing much of the work on a freezing night at Lady Bay.
Fly-half Morgan Bunting gave the hosts the lead from an early penalty but then the Reds were able to start to impose themselves and force the first of a stream of penalties. Russell Bennett kicked to the corner and TJ Harris finished the maul.
The Jersey lead lasted just two minutes as former Red Ryan Olowofela latched on to Bunting’s chip and finished, with Bunting also adding the extras.
There was a blow for the home side as their skipper Josh Poullet was forced off after 20 minutes, with George Cox coming on in the back row.
The visitors stepped up the pressure as half-time approached and Harris was once again able to go over as he splintered off the side of a maul. Bennett’s conversion was off target, leaving the scores tied at 10-apiece.
Within six minutes of the resumption Harris had completed his hat-trick via another maul and restored the lead for his side, with Bennett adding the extras for the first time. Once again the hosts struck back with an excellent flowing move that eventually saw Olowofela over for his second, although the conversion was missed.
The Reds were getting stronger, with some powerful impact off the bench and the home side still forced into regular penalty concessions – this meant more chances from the attacking lineout and Eoghan Clarke forced his way over within minutes of entering the fray.
And this time the Reds broke the pattern of conceding after scoring, increasing their lead to 16 points when Jordan Holgate powered to the line and Bennett converted.
There was time for a late alarm as David Williams claimed the hosts third try, replacement Sam Hollingsworth added the extras and Jersey’s Steve Longwell got a yellow card, but the Reds were able to see out the remainder of the game in relative comfort and secure a vital win.
Pic by Simon Hall
NOTTINGHAM: Jack Neville; David Williams, Charlie Thacker, Javiah Pohe, Ryan Olowofela; Morgan Bunting, Michael Stronge; Aniseko Sio, Harry Clayton, Xavier Valentine, Tom Manz, Lewis Chessum, Sefa Maloney, Nathan Tweedy, Josh Poullet (capt).
Replacements: Jack Dickinson, Toby Williams, Ben Betts, Scott Hall, George Cox, Josh Goodwin, Sam Hollingsworth, Marcus Ramage.
JERSEY REDS: Scott Van Breda; Ben Woollett, Charlie Powell, Jordan Holgate (Dan Barnes 72), Ryan Hutler (Will Brown h-t); Russell Bennett, James Mitchell (Jonny Law 67); Sam Grahamslaw (Greg McGrath 58), TJ Harris (Eoghan Clarke 58), Monty Weatherby (Steve Longwell 45, YC 75), Tom Everard (Hamish Bain 45), Sean O’Connor, Macauley Cook (capt), Max Argyle, Tim Grey (Hallam Chapman 53).
REFEREE: Hamish Smales. Assistants: Neil Chivers, Andy Ashwell
Half Time: 10-10
Tries: Olowofela 17, 52, Williams D 75
Conversions: Bunting 17, Hollingsworth 75
Penalty: Bunting 8
Tries: Harris 14, 35, 46, Clarke 62, Holgate 71
Conversions: Bennett 46, 62, 71
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