Five years after they were both battling to avoid relegation from the Championship, Jersey Reds and Ealing Trailfinders meet in a top-of-the-table clash at Stade Santander International tomorrow (kick-off 2pm).
Trailfinders were the side who went back down to National 1 in April 2014, but the Londoners have come back strongly since then, with ambitions that their next 'Trexit' from level two will be in an upward direction. Claiming this season's Greene King IPA Championship title remains a possibility, but leaders London Irish have an eight-point lead as things stand, and Ealing know their ambitions depend on victory this weekend.
While the visitors will draw comfort from a dominant record over their old rivals in games at this level, the Reds will be highly motivated to continue their proud record against higher-ranked opponents and keep hold of third place in the table with two further matches to play.
Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon makes three changes to his starting XV from the unit which began the game at Richmond a fortnight ago, in which the Reds atoned for their previous home defeat against Hartpury by winning 17-38 at the RAG.
Two of the changes are in the 'tight five', with Jack Macfarlane starting at hooker in place of Charlie Maddison and Dave McKern recalled to the second row ahead of Liam Hallam-Eames. The Reds' back-line is mostly unchanged, with Aaron Penberthy lining up at fly-half against one of his former clubs and Brett Herron continuing in the full-back role; the lone change sees Leroy Van Dam come in at wing in place of Koch Marx.
Three players return to the squad as potential impact players from the bench: Rory Bartle as an option for the back five of the scrum, James Newey for the outside back positions, and hooker Nick Selway, who after six seasons in Jersey is in his final month as a full-time professional having announced that he will combine a return to the construction industry with National 1 rugby with Chinnor next season.
The Reds have faced Ealing three times this season, starting with an impressive Championship Cup win at Vallis Way, although two late bonus points for the hosts in the dying minutes - it finished 34-41 - were to prove crucial in topping the pool and staying on course to repeat last season's British & Irish Cup triumph. The return cup match on the Island went the Londoners' way by 16-20, and they were also victorious in the league encounter at home, battling back to win 19-14 in the last fixture before the Christmas break.
The overall Championship record between the sides is weighed heavily in Ealing's favour, having won eight of the nine matches between the sides. Jersey can claim an advantage in the National League era, from when the clubs first met in 2010/11 and the following season, winning three out of four contests, but overall in all matches Ealing have 10 wins to the Reds' five.
Jersey Reds Women will also be in action this weekend, hosting Peterborough Ladies at 11am - the final match ahead of the annual Siam Cup battle with Island rivals Guernsey on May 11th. And Jersey Reds Athletic will play their final Zoo Shield match of the season away to Cambridge (k-o 2.30pm).
After a trip to Nottingham on Good Friday, the Reds will have their final Championship match of the season at Stade Santander International on Saturday April 27th. Coventry are the visitors, with the two clubs also contesting a 2nd XV game earlier in the day, and the travelling contingent from the Midlands is expected to be the highest of the season, potentially matching the numerical strength of the London Irish Green Army in November. Advance tickets are available via THIS LINK
Online programme - see HERE
Printable team-sheet - see HERE
Jersey Reds 1st XV squad v Ealing Trailfinders (H) - Greene King IPA Championship Round 20/22, Saturday April 12th, Stade Santander International, k-o 2pm
Leroy Van Dam
Jerry Sexton (capt)
Nick Selway, Harry Morley, Sam Rodman, Rory Bartle, Jake Upfield; Will Homer, James Newey
31 Mar 2023
Five games remain to define Championship season