Jersey Reds know that good form on their travels so far in 2022/23 will count for little as they run out at the renowned Championship fortress of Goldington Road this Saturday.
The Reds have won eight of their 10 league matches away from home during the season to date, and will be seeking another victory in their final ‘road-trip’ of the league campaign when they run out at a ground where hosts Bedford Blues have only lost one of their 12 competitive matches this season.
Blues’ one defeat came earlier this month against league leaders Ealing Trailfinders, the side the Reds are chasing having narrowed the gap between first and second to a single point by ‘cashing in’ their game-in-hand at Doncaster Knights last Saturday.
The re-arranged game at Castle Park was evenly-poised on the hour, but the visitors upped their game and eventually finished 24-52 winners.
Selecting their personnel for the Goldington Road challenge, the Reds’ coaching team make seven changes to the starting line-up from the XV which began the game against Doncaster.
The majority of the changes come in the the pack, including an entire front-row rotation as Greg McGrath, Eoghan Clarke and Adam Nicol come in and Sam Grahamslaw, James Hadfield and Stevie Longwell switch to the bench.
Macauley Cook is back in the second row alongside Sean O’Connor while the back row includes Max Argyle, who will pack down alongside skipper Lewis Wynne and Alun Lawrence, and is set to make his 150th appearance for the Reds. Argyle, who moved to the Island in 2016, will be the first Reds’ professional to reach 150, and the third Jersey player from the club’s Championship era to reach the landmark, after Jon Brennan (200 ‘caps’ between 2001 and 2015) and David Felton (158 appearances from 2006 to 2019).
Among the backs, James Elliott returns to partner Russell Bennett at half-back, while Jordan Holgate is promoted from the bench and lines up alongside centre partner Alex McHenry. The back three trio of Lewis, Woollett and Owen remain intact.
Five members of the Jersey bench were in action last Saturday, the new faces being lock Hamish Bain, set for his first action since being injured in January, back row man Hallam Chapman - who is drafted in following illness to James Dun - and centre Charlie Powell.
On the 20 previous occasions the Reds and Blues have met, including one British & Irish Cup tie, there have been 12 Jersey victories and eight for Bedford. Last season the fixture brought home wins by 12 points (for the Reds in September) and nine (on Boxing Day at Goldington Road) respectively.
As well as defending their proud home record, the Blues will be keen to make up for a below-par display when they visited Stade Santander International in December. The home side scored four tries in the first half, and added another three after the break before a last-minute consolation score for Blues’ Jake Garside, which made the final score 45-5.
This Saturday's match at Goldington Road will be streamed live via the Championship website.
After returning from Bedford, the Reds will be steeling themselves for the climax of the Championship season: back-to-back home games against leaders Ealing (Saturday 22nd April at 2pm) and Ampthill (the following Saturday at 3pm).
Jersey Reds squad v Bedford Blues (A) – 2022/23 RFU Championship, game 20/22, Goldington Road, Saturday April 15th, k-o 3pm
Brendan Owen; Ben Woollett, Alex McHenry, Jordan Holgate, Tomi Lewis; Russell Bennett, James Elliott.
Greg McGrath, Eoghan Clarke, Adam Nicol,, Sean O’Connor, Macauley Cook, Max Argyle, Lewis Wynne (capt), Alun Lawrence.
James Hadfield, Sam Grahamslaw, Stevie Longwell, Hamish Bain, Hallam Chapman; James Mitchell, Charlie Powell, Will Brown.
18 May 2023
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