Jersey Reds will host a knock-out tie in the British & Irish Cup for the first time under the Friday Night Lights.
While pleased at the chance of tapping in to cup fever on their home turf - one of the season's highest crowds is expected at St Peter for the quarter-final clash with Cornish Pirates - the Reds know that there's no guarantee that home advantage will be a deciding factor.
Although the previous eight meetings between the sides had been won by the home side, last Sunday the visiting Jersey team were able to buck the trend at the Mennaye Field and get their first win in Cornwall at the sixth attempt.
In muddy, windy conditions in Penzance for the Championship fixture, scoring opportunities were at a premium, and in the end a Sean McCarthy try, converted by Callum Sheedy was enough to defeat the Pirates, whose try-scorer was Kyle Moyle, by 5-7.
Two points has been the winning margin for the Reds' home wins against the Pirates for the last three seasons: 27-25 in November 2013 courtesy of a last-gasp Niall O'Connor penalty; 28-26 in April 2015 thanks to Joe Buckle's late try and an Aaron Penberthy conversion; and 17-15 in September 2015 when the home side held off a Pirates' fightback. This season the gap was a point greater, with Sam Katz slotting a 79th-minute penalty to seal a 27-24 win.
Given the history of close encounters between the clubs, and their proximity in the Greene King IPA Championship table, with the Pirates just a point ahead as the two sides battle for a top-four place, another exciting contest is in prospect. The Cornish side were undefeated in seven games prior to the game last Sunday, while Jersey have won six in a row since losing at home to Ealing Trailfinders on New Year's Day.
There are five changes to the Reds' starting XV. Three of them are in the front row, where Simon Kerrod returns at tight-head and will pack down alongside two players who made an impact as replacements against Pirates last Sunday: hooker Jack Macfarlane and loose-head Jake Woolmore.
The other changes are at scrum-half, with Joel Dudley stepping up after Kieran Hardy was ruled out through injury, and on the wing, where George Watkins is recalled in place of Ross Adair.
Three changes among Jersey's replacements see prop Sean McCarthy swap with Woolmore, Sami Fisilau come in to cover scrum-half, and a welcome return for hooker Nick Selway, who has missed almost five months of the season since being injured in the B&I tie against Ulster 'A" in October (pictured below).
While the Reds are looking to at least emulate their run to the B&I semi-finals last season, the Pirates are former holders of the cup and have ambitions to repeat their 2010 success, when they defeated Munster 'A' at Camborne in front of a crowd of 4,200.
The Reds have reduced ticket prices for the match, with admission costing just £12 for non-members and £10 for members. These prices are available in advance via the Eventbrite site, or on the gate - the ground opens at 5.30pm. With limited car parking, supporters are asked to consider alternative ways of getting to the ground, whether this involves Liberty Bus routes 9/15/22, a taxi, a lift, walking or cycling. If you are driving and wish to park at the club, please allow extra time and aim to arrive early.
The match is the first of a trio of home games for the Reds, who will entertain Rotherham Titans and London Irish on Saturday March 18th and Saturday March 25th - both games will kick-off at 3pm.
Jersey Reds squad v Cornish Pirates (H) - British & Irish Cup quarter-final, Friday March 10th, St Peter; k-o 7.45pm
James Freeman (capt)
Nick Selway, Sean McCarthy, Jake Armstrong, Uili Kolo'ofa'i, Max Argyle; Sami Fisilau, Lewis Robling.
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