Jersey Reds face a tough task this weekend as they take on a team whose cup record is head-and-shoulders above any of their Championship rivals.
Ealing Trailfinders are not only the holders of the Championship Cup, but also lifted the British & Irish Cup in the tournament’s final season in 2017/18. The men from Vallis Way are focusing on another successful campaign this time round to complete a ‘three-peat’.
An away fixture to a team who have won 23 of their last 24 cup games may not be the easiest prospect, but the visitors from Jersey can draw a crumb of comfort having been the exception to Ealing Trailfinders’ cup dominance.
The Reds’ 34-41 win at Vallis Way in November 2018 came during a pool stage that eventually saw both sides qualify among the top four seeds, but it was Ealing who went on to lift the cup as the Reds crashed out to Cornish Pirates in the quarter-finals.
Reds Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon admitted this week that his side’s focus on this Saturday’s cup tie, and the clash against unbeaten league leaders Newcastle Falcons on home turf next weekend had had a negative effect on the squad last weekend. The Championship clash with Doncaster Knights at Castle Park did not go to plan, with a fired-up home side scoring six tries and winning 38-10.
Biljon makes multiple changes to his starting XV from the line-up which began the game against the Knights, with just six players remaining.
Props Harry Morley and Zei Alexis form an all-new front row with new signing Reece Marshall, who will make his debut after linking up with the Reds this week after joining on loan from Northampton Saints.
Kyle Hatherell, a replacement last weekend, comes in from the bench in a straight swap with Liam Hallam-Eames, and flankers Max Argyle and Conor Joyce will also start the game, with the latter chosen to captain the side.
Brendan Cope moves from centre to fly-half, with George Spencer coming into midfield, while Alex Morgan and Leroy Van Dam comes in on the wings, the latter making a welcome return from injury.
The two sides are meeting for the third time this season. Ealing took the opening encounter on home turf, winning a free-scoring encounter 52-38, and then completed the double after a much tighter game in Jersey two weeks ago – it finished 24-28 to the visitors.
There will be two home matches for Reds’ teams this weekend: an Athletic Select XV take on Gibraltar on Saturday at 2pm in a contest for the Sancus Cup, while on Sunday Jersey Reds Women host St Francis for a league match that kicks off at 1.30pm.
After returning from Ealing, the Reds 1st XV will be looking forward to the clash with Newcastle Falcons at Stade Santander International on Saturday February 29th (kick-off 3pm). A large contingent of visiting supporters is expected, and the weekend will also include a Q&A session with Biljon and his counterpart Dean Richards on Friday evening.
Jersey Reds 1st XV squad v Ealing Trailfinfers (A) – Championship Cup quarter-final, Vallis Way, Saturday February 22nd 2020, k-o 3pm
Leroy Van Dam
Conor Joyce (capt)