Jersey Reds face their biggest challenge of the season so far this Saturday, with unbeaten London Irish the visitors to Stade Santander International.
The match-up against the team who top the Greene King IPA Championship table is set to draw the largest crowd on the Island since the Exiles’ previous visit, when 3,317 people saw Jersey stun their visitors with a 15-11 win. Around 1,000 visiting supporters made the trip for that game, and the Green Army will once again be out in force for this weekend’s game, which was postponed from the originally scheduled date of September 15th.
The Reds will be looking to maintain a fine record of success in contests against table-topping sides in recent years. This dates back to wins against Ealing Trailfinders and Rosslyn Park in National 1 over successive weekends in January 2012, and subsequently includes victories over Worcester Warriors in 2015, London Irish in 2017, Bristol in March of this year and most recently Cornish Pirates three weeks ago.
Head Coach Harvey Biljon is still without several of his key players, but the home side are boosted by the return to fitness of skipper Roy Godfrey. Missing since an injury at Doncaster in early October, Godfrey will look to make an impact from the bench, with Harry Morley, who has stepped up impressively in recent weeks, retaining his place at loose-head prop.
Three players who came on as replacements in last weekend’s 28-21 home win over Richmond have been called up to the starting XV to face the Exiles: half-backs Will Homer and Aaron Penberthy, and hooker Charlie Maddison, who could line up against his brother Barney, a second row forward with Irish.
The fourth and final new face in Jersey’s starting XV is centre James Newey, whose return sees Koch Marx switch to the wing in place of Jason Worrall.
The Reds and London Irish played their first-ever matches against each other in the 2016/17 season; the Exiles had been relegated to the Greene King IPA Championship after 20 seasons in the top tier.
The clubs played each other three times that season. In November 2016, Irish scored five tries in a 42-29 home win, but the visitors showed they also had some attacking prowess in scoring four tries of their own. The return match on the Island the following March saw the Reds inflict Irish’s only defeat of their title-winning season, and Jersey also claimed an away victory at the Madejski Stadium the following weekend, winning a British & Irish Cup semi-final tie 17-25.
Saturday’s match kicks off at 2pm. The ground will open at 11am, and supporters are encouraged to arrive early to avoid last-minute congestion at the entrances. There will be Irish music and dancing around the ground, a post-match DJ in the marquee and a chance to catch up with the international rugby action on the big screens in the clubhouse and pavilion bars.
Jersey Reds Athletic also have a home game this weekend, utilising the new pitch at the Airport Playing Field for their match against visitors Barnes. The Zoo Shield match kicks off at 11.30am.
Jersey Reds 1st XV squad v London Irish (H) – Greene King IPA Championship Round 3/22*, Saturday November 2nd, Stade Santander International, k-o 2pm
Leroy Van Dam
Jerry Sexton (capt)
Nick Selway, Roy Godfrey, Sam Rodman, Charlie Beckett, Jake Upfield; Calum Waters, Brett Herron.
* Round 3 game rescheduled from Sept 15th to Nov 3rd – each side’s 9th league game of the season