Jersey Reds round off the pool stage of the Championship Cup knowing they have work to do to maximise their chances in the knock-out stages.
The Reds and pool rivals Ealing Trailfinders are locked together on 21 points, with the former having a narrow advantage on tries scored; although they have both earned a home quarter-final, each club will want to top the pool after this weekend’s matches, which see Ealing host Richmond while the Reds travel to take on London Scottish at the Athletic Ground.
Recent experience tells the visitors not to underestimate the Exiles on their home turf – the Reds surrendered a 10-24 half-time lead in September’s league game and lost 27-24. The teams also met at Stade Santander International four weeks ago, with Jersey victorious by 41-10 – this was part of a 10-match winning streak that lasted until the Reds were downed 16-20 at the Stade by Ealing last Saturday, the visitors making the better fist of the atrocious weather conditions.
The Reds’ starting XV shows four changes to the line-up which began the game against Ealing. Two are in the back-line, with Brett Herron back at fly-half in place of Aaron Penberthy, and Jason Worrall making way for Jack Stapley on the wing.
Two weeks after hobbling off the field at the Athletic Ground having been injured against Richmond, Jerry Sexton has recovered and will return to the second row in place of Dave McKern. And there’s a start at number 8 for Jake Upfield – the Australian takes over from Namibian international Janco Venter.
Venter is one of those on the Jersey bench, which also includes props Harry Morley and Zi Alexis, plus the return of hooker Charlie Maddison after missing four games through injury. Hilton Mudariki and James Newey offer cover – and impact – for the back-line, while McKern, who crossed for a rare try last weekend, is set to make his 50th competitive appearance for the Reds.
The Exiles’ win over the Reds in September snapped a seven-game losing run at Jersey hands, which included three Greene King IPA Championship encounters and four match-ups in the British & Irish Cup. The two clubs arrived in the Championship one year apart, with London Scottish winning promotion from National 1 in 2011 and the Reds emulating this feat 12 months later. There have been 18 matches between them at this level, with 11 wins for the Reds; however if B&I Cup matches are discounted, the Scots hold a narrow 7-6 advantage.
Back on the largest Channel Island, Jersey Reds Athletic will complete their 2018 schedule on home turf, taking on Cambridge on Saturday at 2pm and looking to build on last weekend’s 21-22 victory at Ampthill.
Jersey Reds 1st XV squad v London Scottish (A) – Championship Cup Pool 2, Round 6/6, Saturday December 15th, The Athletic Ground, k-o 2pm
Leroy Van Dam
Charlie Maddison, Harry Morley, Zi Alexis, Dave McKern, Janco Venter; Hilton Mudariki, James Newey.