Jersey Reds came into the tie as the form side, but Yorkshire Carnegie are a big club with a lot of strength in depth, had just had a weekend off, and had shown signs of improvement in their last outing against Bristol.
The Emerald Headingley ground has proven to be an impenetrable fortress for Jersey, and so it was to be again today.
Nobody was underestimating the task in front of the Reds, and Head Coach Harvey Biljon had rung a few changes in the front row in an attempt to rotate squad members, give players game time and keep everyone as fresh and sharp as possible for the final few weeks of the season.
Yorkshire Carnegie were to lose fly half Irvine in the first few minutes, but this didn't unsettle them, and they scored soon after as Forsyth was the beneficiary of a gap in the Jersey defence. McColl, as replacement kicker, added the extras and the home side had a 7-0 advantage.
Jersey regrouped and then controlled large chunks of play, both in terms of possession and territory, but time and again they came up against a very determined and solid Carnegie defence. There were occasions that an ambitious pass or more often a chip ahead was tried and failed, when maintaining possession and pressure could have been a better option.
As it was, Jersey managed to level the scores when Jerry Sexton timed his leap to perfection to steal Yorkshire lineout ball on their own 5m line, and then powered over. This followed a probing kick to the corner by Mark Best to pin the home side back, and it proved to be absolutely the right move. Cope did the rest, and the scores were level.
As the half wore on, Yorkshire Carnegie again got themselves into the dangerzone to put pressure on the Reds' defence. One penalty went to the corner, but they couldn't convert the lineout to a try, and when a second penalty was awarded it was a perfectly executed tap and go manoeuvre with a driving maul that got them over the whitewash for an unconverted try. And so it was that the sides turned around with Yorkshire Carnegie leading by 12-7.
The Reds needed to respond first after the break, but this didn't happen, and it was another tap and go penalty deep in Jersey's 22 that mirrored their earlier score. McColl converted as Yorkshire Carnegie opened up a 19-7 lead.
Both sides continued to play expansive rugby in what were ideal, dry conditions, and Jersey were getting into the right areas, but still struggling to break through a stubborn defence. The scrum set-piece had started to yield the odd penalty for the visitors, but Jersey's second score came from a piece of individual quick thinking. Hardy quickly tapped a penalty on 5m and a sniping run saw him dart over, for Cope to convert again. - 19-14 with just under twenty minutes to go, and it was game on.
But as quickly as Jersey had applied the pressure, so Yorkshire Carnegie found a way to release it with their fourth try of the afternoon scored by skipper Richard Mayhew.
Again Jersey pressed, and Cope thought that he had scored when he burst through with less than 5 minutes to go, and although many observers thought that he had grounded the ball before being bowled over; the referee didn't. The clock continued to tick away as Jersey were awarded a penalty that was dispatched to the corner. Saunders found Sexton at the front and the drive was text book, with Saunders finishing off the move for the score. Cope again converted from wide, hoping that there would be time for a restart, but the referee had seen enough and blew for full time.
Following the final whistle, ex Reds' coach Steve Boden was delighted with how his charges had responded and secured their bonus point win, and paid tribute to their defensive qualities on the day.
Meanwhile, Head Coach Harvey Biljon said, "We had a tough quarter-final last week, and were perhaps a little off the pace against an energised Yorkshire team, and unfortunately the rugby gods weren't with us today". He continued, "This has perhaps come at the right time for us, has given an opportunity for some players to get game time and for others to have a rest. I am now looking ahead to Nottingham and Leinster".
YORKSHIRE CARNEGIE: Elder, Watkins, Forsyth, Lucock, McColl, Irvine, Fox, Beech, Mayhew M, Mitchell, Whetton, Smith, West, Mayhew R (c), Beck
Newborn, Thraves, Bryce, Ward, Bainbridge, Bullough, Brown
JERSEY REDS: Van Breda (c) ; Pincus, Ma'afu, Best, Worrall, Cope, Hardy, Godfrey (c), Selway, Atalifo, Sexton, Bartle, Argyle, Joyce, Rogerson
Saunders, Clarey, Armstrong, Kolo'ofa'i, Upfield, Dudley, Eastwell
REFEREE: Anthony Woodthorpe
Assistants: Chris Sharp & Matthew Daubney
Half Time: 12-7
Man-of-the-match: Mayhew R
Tries: Forsyth, Mayhew M, Beech, Mayhew R
Conversions: McColl (3)
Tries: Sexton, Hardy, Saunders
Conversions: Cope (3)
23 Mar 2023
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