Jersey Reds face the second of back-to-back Championship Cup encounters at Stade Santander International this Saturday as they aim to cement their place in the quarter-finals of the competition.
Visitors Hartpury University may face a near-impossible mission to qualify for the knockout stages themselves, but the Reds will be acutely aware of the danger of underestimating the college side.
Hartpury were at the bottom of the Greene King IPA Championship table when they visited the Island in March, but took advantage of a below-par display from the Reds to grab a crucial win by 7-10. A late penalty by Sam Leeming sealed the result and went a long way to ensuring his side’s eventual escape from relegation.
The game last March was one of four close encounters in the five games between the teams to date; the Reds won by margins of just one and four points in 2017/18, and by 13-24 in a Championship Cup encounter at the end of September this year. The lone exception to this trend was in October 2018, when the visiting Jersey side cut loose in scoring seven tries to win 14-52.
As the Reds attempt to win their third game out of five in this season’s cup competition, Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon has made eight changes to the starting XV from the line-up which began last weekend’s 27-17 home win over Doncaster Knights.
Most of the shuffling comes in the pack, with Max Argyle and Josh Bainbridge the lone survivors – they are joined in the back row by Jake Upfield. Ahead of them in the engine room, Charlie Beckett is promoted from the bench and there’s a first start of the season for Liam Hallam-Eames after the New Zealander shook off an injury.
In the front row Fijian World Cup tight-head prop Leeroy Atalifo and hooker Jack Macfarlane join loose-head James Wayland, who will make his first start for the Reds after a brief cameo as a replacement in the opening league match against Coventry.
The starting back-line has two changes: rotation at scrum-half sees Luc Jones come in for Will Homer, and James Newey starts in place of George Spencer at outside centre. There are also two welcome returns from injury on the bench, with Aaron Penberthy and Leroy Van Dam primed to return to action after several weeks’ absence.
Following the game against Hartpury, the Reds will wrap up the pool stage of the cup with a trip to unbeaten Newcastle Falcons on Saturday December 14th. Then 2019 concludes with a Championship clash against London Scottish at Stade Santander International on Saturday December 21st – the Christmas party fixture will kick off at 2pm.
Saturday also sees a game for Jersey Reds Athletic, who play a Raging Bull Shield fixture against Wimbledon at 12noon on the Airport Playing Field. Sunday’s match between Jersey Reds Women and Seaford has been cancelled due to the visitors being unable to make the trip.
Jersey Reds 1st XV squad v Hartpury University (H) – Championship Cup Pool 2, Round 5/6, Stade Santander International, Saturday December 7th 2019, k-o 3pm
Josh Bainbridge (capt)
Nic Dolly, Roy Godfrey, Zei Alexis, Rory Bartle, Conor Joyce; Will Homer, Aaron Penberthy, Leroy Van Dam