Jersey Reds roared back from disappointing displays in their two previous Championship outings to claim maximum points from a tough encounter at the Athletic Ground.
The Reds put opponents Richmond to the sword with an exhilarating first half display that left them 19 points clear, but after the hosts fought back in the third quarter it needed a late try to seal the win and try bonus point.
The visitors, running out at the RAG for the second time this season after an opening day win against London Scottish, made a perfect start. With just four minutes played Jordan Holgate sent Lewis Wynne through a gap, and the skipper crossed halfway before offloading to back row colleague Wesley White who showed great pace with a 45-metre dash to the posts. Sam Leeming added a straightforward conversion.
The Reds carved out several other opportunities during the early stage, with the back three of Harry Simmons, Ryan Olowofela and Will Brown all looking dangerous, but were denied by tenacious Richmond defence. It was the same at close quarters, with Eoghan Clarke forcing his way over at one stage but Kiwi referee Brendon Pickerill rulling the ball was held up.
Though they went into the second quarter of the game disappointed not to have stretched their lead, the visitors did then manage a second try when Zak Farrance forced his way over at the back of a rolling maul.
There was a third try before the break as well, with a spell of pressure, built around a powerful run by replacement centre Dan Barnes, ending with a deft grubber from Leeming which was collected and touched down by Olowofela.
The home side had shown little by way of attacking threat, and when they did get a foothold in the Reds’ 22 just before the break, the attacking player was bundled into touch and the whistle blew for ‘oranges’.
The half-time fruit seemed to galvanise the home side, who immediately showed greater threat in attack after the resumption, pressurizing the Reds into conceding a stream of penalties. Poor discipline had been a feature of the previous outings against Doncaster and Ampthill, but during the first half the visitors had transgressed on only a handful of occasions.
A series of close-range penalties eventually led to skipper Mark Bright opening his side’s account from a rolling maul, and a few minutes later Richmond had a second try: prop Jonny Harris made good ground and although his pass to Owain James appeared to be dropped, there was actually a Red hand involved. On-loan Harlequins centre Lennox Anyanwu, who was being watched by the Gallagher Premiership side’s Head Coach Tabai Matson, was quickly onto the loose ball and forced his way over.
It appeared inevitable that if the Reds could not improve their discipline they were likely to lose a player to the sin bin. An estimated 11 penalties were conceded during the second half, and sure enough Mr Pickerill lost patience and brandished a yellow card in the direction of Barnes.
Soon after Barnes’ departure, the home side had a third try, with skipper Cam Mitchell creating space for James Kane to race down the left flank and cut inside Olowofela to score. Kane had missed the earlier conversions, but was able to add the extras on this occasion to reduce the deficit to just two points.
To their credit, the Reds put their third-quarter horror show behind them and managed to regain some control of the match, winning greater possession and succeeding in moving the focus of the game into the Richmond half for the first time since the break, as well as reverting to full strength following the yellow card.
There were a series of penalties that were kicked to the corner, with Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon subsequently querying why the home side had not been punished through a card in the same way his team had. After a number of close calls, Eoghan Clarke was able to steer a maul over the line in the corner, and a superb touchline conversion by Leeming meant the Reds were nine points clear.
Richmond attacked from the restart and did win a penalty which Kane stroked over to move his team into losing bonus point range. Home supporters hoped there would be a final play in which their team could press for a winning score, but in the event the officials declared that time was up and the final whistle blew.
The five points enabled the Reds to move above Richmond into third place in the league table, a point behind Cornish Pirates and three behind Ealing Trailfinders, who racked up a 101-7 win against London Scottish.
Next Saturday the Reds host Hartpury University at Stade Santander International, with the game kicking off at 2.15pm.
There was an impressive home win in the Raging Bull Shield for Jersey Reds Athletic, who defeated Richmond Saxons 25-21.
Pictures by Simon Cooper/ Snapzman.co.uk
RICHMOND: Kane; Homer, Mitchell (c), Anyanwu, James (Graham 73); Landray, Watson; Harris (Schonert 62), Hadfield (Perks 72), Litchfield (Green 51), Hosking, Hodge (Collingridge 37), Worthington, Allcock (Massey 51), Bright.
Unused replacements: Gowling, Duncan
JERSEY REDS: Simmons, Olowofela, Roberts, Holgate (Barnes 26, YC 57), Brown; Leeming, Elliott (Mitchell 59); Flynn (Owen 54), Clarke, Yendle, Farrance (Humfrey h-t), O’Connor, Cook, Wynne (c) (Grey 70), White (Argyle 54).
Unused replacements: Doolan, Higgins
REFEREE: Brendon Pickerill (NZ). Assistants: Gregg Dawson, Mike Woods
Half Time: 0-19
Tries: White 4, Farrance 27, Olowofela 36, Clarke 77
Conversions: Leeming 4, 36, 77
Tries: Bright 47, Anyanwu 51, Kane 60
Conversion: Kane 60
Penalty: Kane 80
Why not come a chillout in the supporters marquee before the game, A fully stocked bar and food is available, seated and standing tables, on a first come first served basis and a great place to meet the Reds supporters.