After losing their opening Championship match in Cornwall, Saracens proved too hot to handle for Jersey on the Reds’ first league outing of 2020/21.
The former English and European champions, relegated from the Premiership last year, scored seven tries as they cruised to a comfortable victory.
It was a tough bow for the Reds, although they will take heart from having remained on terms until their opponents went into overdrive just before the half-hour mark.
The Reds made the perfect start when they put Saracens under pressure straight from the kick-off and forced a penalty, which Brendan Cope landed with only 75 seconds on the clock.
The home side came back into the game with their first meaningful attack after 10 minutes. A kick through was collected by Jersey’s George Spencer, but the winger’s attempt to pass to a team-mate as he ran out of defence was intercepted. A cross-kick to the corner bounced nicely for Duncan Taylor, who quickly flipped the ball inside to Alex Lewington for the try.
Cope narrowed the lead to 7-6 when he slotted a penalty awarded following a prodigious scrum drive by the Red pack, and the visitors were disappointed soon afterwards when they failed to make the most of an attacking lineout inside the hosts’ 22.
Some tough defence by both sides led to a series of handling errors, although the Reds continued to stand up well at scrum-time. But two quick-fire tries were soon to tilt the scoreboard firmly in the home team’s favour.
First of all it was another kick to the corner, this time a grubber by flay-half Manu Vunipola which bounced perfectly for Lewington to cruise over for his second try. And then a quickly-tapped penalty from scrum-half Davies, some powerful drives and Elliott Obatoyinbo crossed in the corner – suddenly it was 19-6.
The Reds settled to an extent, but Sarries claimed their bonus-point score just before the break thanks to some fast hands which saw Scottish international Duncan Taylor go over.
Although the second half began in identical fashion, with Sarries being forced to concede a penalty from the restart, the Reds couldn’t capitalise and lost two lineouts in quick succession.
It didn’t take long for the hosts to increase their lead, with some click hands working the ball wide to Obatoyinbo to cruise over for his second, although the seven points were cancelled out immediately on the resumption: the try-scorer’s attempted clearance was charged down by Sean O’Connor, and replacement hooker Jack Macfarlane pounced on the loose ball and slid over, with Cope converting.
It was a productive afternoon for the home side’s back three, and Rotimi Segun got in on the act when he picked up at the side of a maul, spotted half a gap and burst through to the line to leave the score 38-13 on the hour.
The Reds were at least able to stem the tide during the final quarter, conceding just one further try, which was claimed by home skipper Jackson Wray four minutes from time when he hoofed on a loose ball with his knee and followed up to score.
The Reds were left licking their wounds after encountering a powerful home side determined to avenge their opening-round defeat in Cornwall the previous weekend. The Jersey squad will return to London next weekend to take on Richmond.
Picture: Simon Cooper - snapzman.co.uk
Saracens v Jersey Reds (A) – Greene King IPA Championship, Round 1/10, StoneX Stadium, Saturday March 13th 2021, k-o 1.30pm
Saracens (15-9, 1-8)
Elliott Obatoyinbo; Alex Lewington. Duncan Taylor, Juan Pablo Socino, Rotimi Segun; Manu Vunipola, Aled Davies; Richard Barrington, Kapeli Pifeleti, Vincent Koch, Callum Hunter-Hill, Tim Swinson, Mike Rhodes, Sean Reffell, Jackson Wray (capt)
Replacements: Sam Crean, Eroni Mawi, Josh Ibuanokpe, Joel Kpoku, Andy Christie, Tom Whiteley, Dom Morris, Will Hooley
Jersey Reds (15-9, 1-8 * = debut)
Tom Williams; George Spencer, Scott van Breda, Dan Barnes *, Brendan Owen; Brendan Cope, James Elliott *; Dan Richardson *, TJ Harris, Ciaran Parker *, Zak Farrance *, Sean O’Connor *, Max Argyle, Lewis Wynne (capt) *, Kyle Hatherell.
Replacements: Jack Macfarlane, Roy Godfrey, Zei Alexis, Rory Bartle, Tim Grey *, Cameron Nordli Kelemeti *, Josh Bainbridge, Apakuki Ma’afu
Tries: Lewington 11, 26, Obatoyinbo 28, 46, Taylor 38, Segun 58, Wray 76
Conversions: Vunipola 11, 26, 46, 58, 76
Try: Macfarlane 49
Conversion: Cope 49
Penalties: Cope 2, 15
Referee: Jack Makepeace. Assistants: Joe James, Shane Lewis