Jersey Reds take on a side who have become old rivals during the past six seasons.
The Reds will be making their eighth visit to Goldington Road, home of Bedford Blues, and judging by the last two encounters on the ground, the two sides have a lot to live up to.
On Boxing Day 2016 a crowd of 4,700 saw a match in which the lead changed hands 12 times, with the Blues seizing it 39-37 at the death thanks to the 10th try of the game and resulting conversion. And in February this year there was another classic – this time the Reds outscored their hosts in a nine-try encounter that ended in a 29-33 away win.
In last season’s final rankings, the Blues finished in third place, two places and three points above the Reds, although the Island side won 13 matches to their rivals’ 11.
Overall, Goldington Road has been a happy hunting ground for the Reds, who have won four of the seven encounters – which include a British & Irish Cup quarter-final in 2016 – at the ground, and eight of the 13 matches the clubs have played in total since 2012.
Beaten 20-15 at Coventry last Saturday, the Reds will face a tough task against a Blues squad who enjoyed an excellent start to the new Greene King IPA Championship season, winning 21-27 at Nottingham last Sunday.
Head Coach Harvey Biljon has made three changes to his starting XV and a further four amendments to the replacements bench for Saturday’s game.
With tight-head prop Alec Clarey facing a lengthy period out of the game after injuring his achilles tendon against Coventry, Leeroy Atalifo comes in to the front row. And after an impressive league debut from the bench last Saturday, Janco Venter comes into the back row – the Namibian international is selected at blind-side flanker, while Max Argyle moves across to take Kyle Hatherell’s place at number 8.
In the back-line, the sole change is at left wing, with Leroy Van Dam coming in for his competitive debut for the Reds in place of Jason Worrall, who suffered a head injury against Coventry.
Four new faces come in as replacements and are set to make their league debuts in Jersey colours: props Harry Morley and Sam Rodman, back-rower Graham Geldenhuys and new signing Calum Water – the scrum-half announced this week as joining the Reds from Harlequins on a season-long loan in the wake of the enforced retirement of Joel Dudley.
The rivalry between the sides is enhanced by a large contingent of former Jersey players among the Blues’ squad. Although Michael Le Bourgeois made the move to the Premiership, joining Wasps this summer, there are still five ex-Reds in the home club’s playing squad: three-quarters Rich Lane and Lewis Robling, flanker Alex Rae and front row duo Sean McCarthy and Charlie Clare.
With the scheduled of visit of London Irish having been put back to early November, the Reds will have a weekend off from competitive action on September 15th, and face a lengthy wait until the first home league game of the new season, when Yorkshire Carnegie travel to the Island for a Friday Night Lights encounter on September 28th. The delayed start provides extra time for supporters to take advantage of the Super Season Ticket being offered for 2018/19 – 14 home matches for just £140. Application details HERE
Although there is no match for Jersey Reds Athletic this weekend, the club’s women’s side will play their first match of the season, a National Championship Division 2 South game away to Swanage & Wareham. The squad for this match can be seen HERE
Jersey Reds 1st XV squad v Bedford Blues (A) – Greene King IPA Championship Round 2/22, Saturday September 8th, Goldington Road, k-o 3pm
Leroy Van Dam
Roy Godfrey (capt)
Charlie Maddison, Harry Morley, Sam Rodman, Charlie Beckett, Graham Geldenhuys; Calum Waters, James Newey.