Jersey Reds made an excellent start to the new season, running in seven tries in putting newly-promoted Richmond to the sword on their home patch.
Although the home side took the lead with an early penalty and played combatively to start with, the Reds wrested back control and scored well-worked tries on the right wing through skipper James Freeman and winger George Watkins to take a 3-10 lead, both moves featuring swift hands in midfield to create overlap situations.
Having shown the potency of their backs, the Reds then looked to apply pressure onto Richmond at scrum time close to the goal-line, and a series of penalties brought a final warning for persistent offence from referee Dean Richards. But the home team survived and eventually hacked the ball clear as Jersey attacked from the base of a scrum in which the Richmond front row had managed to hold firm. The hosts responded with two more penalties by full-back Kirby, the second going in off the post, to make the Reds' lead a single point at the break.
Jersey had suffered from a malfunctioning lineout in the first half, losing possession seven times on their own throws, through a combination of inaccurate communication between hooker Joe Buckle and his lifters and jumpers, some sniping counter-jumping from the hosts and a capricious breeze. Reds supporters were pleased to see a distinct improvement after the break, while the forecast rain stayed away until soon after the final whistle.
After beginning the second half superbly in their pre-season win over Premiership side Worcester, Jersey did the same again and some bold attacking play saw Welsh duo Lewis Robling and Marc Thomas cross for tries within two minutes of each other to establish real daylight between the sides for the first time (9-24). Robling collected a clever kick ahead by scrum-half Kieran Hardy, while Thomas took a pass from replacement Uili Kolo'ofa'i and grounded the ball as he bounced off one of the posts. Jack Cuthbert added his first conversion on a difficult day for place-kicking, and could have had a try as well if Watkins had taken advantage of a possible overlap.
Harvey Biljon made good use of his bench; one replacement, Nick Selway, scored almost instantly after finding his man at an attacking lineout and then joining an unstoppable rolling maul to touch down.
Although scrum-half Sam Stuart got one back for Richmond with a close range dart, the Reds had the final word with another try for Robling from Sami Fisilau's pass after another powerful Jersey scrum and then Gary Graham bursting through from another Fisilau pass to complete the scoring. In the closing stages Richmond replacement Ben Lonergan was sin-binned for taking out Graham in the air as he went to catch a restart kick.
The win was the first time in five attempts that the Reds had won their opening Championship match - with the last opening day win being back in 2010 when Jersey won 17-18 at Shelford in National Two South.
Jersey captain James Freeman said: "We'd been targeting five points, and so it's pleasing to have achieved that. It wasn't a great start - Richmond came out strongly as we expected and I think we were a bit flustered and showed some first game nerves. The lineout wasn't working well and that's something we'll need to looks at. But we picked up our game, especially in the second half, and showed some glimpses of what we're capable of. We'll use this as a benchmark and be looking to improve in the weeks to come."
Richmond FC: Rob Kirby; Will Browne, Cameron Mitchell, Ronnie McLean (Rhys Owen 66), Henry Cheeseman; Rory Lynn (Ross Jones-Davies 78), Sam Stuart (Jamie Gibbs 75); Tim Walford (Jeremy Cunnew 55), Jason Phipps (Ross Grimstone 50), Rupert Harden (Ali Lyon 75), Matt Corker (capt), Tyler Hotson (Ben Lonergan 64 - YC 79), Tom Sargeant, Jack Allcock, Chris Davies.
Jersey Reds: Jack Cuthbert; George Watkins, Regan King (Jordan Davies 55), Lewis Robling, Ross Adair; Brendan Cope, Kieran Hardy (Sami Fisilau 62); Marc Thomas (Sean McCarthy 62), Joe Buckle (Nick Selway 54), Simon Kerrod (Mark Tampin 62), Dave McKern (Uili Kolo'ofa'i 48), Nick Campbell, James Freeman (capt), Gary Graham, Nick Haining (Max Argyle 65)
Referee: Dean Richards (RFU); Assistants: Matt O'Grady, Nigel Carrick
Try: Stuart 61
Conversion: Kirby 61
Penalties: Kirby 3, 22, 39
Tries: Freeman 9, Watkins 20, Robling 47, 66, Thomas 49, Selway 56, Graham 78
Conversions: Cuthbert 47, 49, Cope 66
17 Mar 2023
Home side raring to go after postponement in Yorkshire